A host of non-governmental organisations and unions have accused prominent Australian retailers of refusing to sign an updated version of the 2013 Rana Plaza accord on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Bangladesh building collapse.
Oxfam Australia, Baptist World Aid, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and others are urging Australian brands to sign the 2018 version of the safety accord before the original 2013 agreement expires next month.
The 2013 document, struck in partnership with more than 200 brands in the wake of the Rana Plaza Building collapse, which killed more than 1100 workers in Bangladesh, outlines standards and commitments to improving conditions for garment factory workers.
The group said 2013 signatories such as Noni-B, Workwear Group and Licensing Essentials were “dragging their feet” and had not yet signed the new agreement, while those who had not signed the 2013 accord, such as Myer, Just Group, Best and Less and Country Road, had not yet committed to the updated agreement either.
“Signing the Accord is about ensuring the absolute basics in the rights of more than two million garment workers – more than 70 per cent of whom are women – in Bangladesh,” Oxfam Austraia’s chief executive Helen Szoke said.
A variety of retailers have already signed the updated agreement, including Kmart, Big W, Cotton On, Specialty Fashion Group and APG and Co.
Globally Swedish fashion giant H&M, PVH Brands, Arcadia Group and Aldi are all already signatories.
The new agreement maintains key features of the 2013 accord, such as independent safety inspections and the institution of remediation programs for workers, while extending safety committee and training initiatives to all factories covered.
There are also new provisions in the legally binding accord related to freedom of association rights.
Rob Wayss, executive director and acting chief safety inspector of the accord said that the agreement builds on the fundamental elements outlined in the 2013 accord.
“The new agreement demonstrates that international brands and global trade unions recognise the positive impact of the Accord and the need for the Accord to continue its work in Bangladesh to ensure that factories are made safe and stay safe,” he said.
Aussie brands failing the grade
Last week Baptist World Aid released its annual ethical fashion report, which found that only a small minority of Australian retailers are making the ethical grade when it comes to their supply chains.
Some brands, such as Decjuba have opted not to participate and were given F scores.
Decjuba has been the subject of an email blast by Baptist World Aid in the days following the release on the report, but the brand has defended its ethical veracity, saying that BWA’s report reflects its own philosophy.
“We appreciate the intentions of the Baptist World Aid Guide, but also recognise it as an unregulated survey driven by the Baptist World Aid Organisation’s own set of beliefs,” the company said last week.
Others such as A scorer Cotton On Group have embraced the report and have worked towards improving their score.
“We know that our responsibility goes far beyond selling clothes and we endeavour to use our size and scale of operations to have a positive impact on people, communities and the planet,” Cotton On Group’s risk and sustainability general manager James Hubbard said.