Safety and Well-being in Bangladesh Factories

22 Apr 2016

This week marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh - the worst industrial accident in the history of the garment industry. Although we did not source from Rana Plaza, we recognised our responsibility to help bring about change in the safety and wellbeing of all those who work in the clothing industry.

Three years on and we are pleased to share the significant progress we have made in safety in Bangladesh which helps to deliver quality and sustainable products for our customers. The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety - which we were the first UK retailer to sign up to - has recognised us for being a leader in progress with the corrective actions taken by our suppliers being completed at a considerably higher rate than Accord’s membership average.

Our work to ensure safe and decent factories began in 2013 before the Bangladesh Accord was able to conduct their own independent fire, electrical and structural safety inspections. As soon as the risks had become clear, we started by funding  structural safety assessments of all factories we were working with in the country.  In 2013 we also made a number of other commitments which we continue to follow. These include:

  • Not sourcing from any factories in mixed use or shared use buildings (where the fire risks to workers in the factories that supply us can come from less well-run neighbouring shops, factories or other premises).
  • Conducting structural surveys for all factories we source from.
  • Suspending any factories with safety concerns and providing support to address them.
  • Publishing a list of all our Bangladesh factories online so our customers and others can know exactly who we work with.
  • Supporting the establishment of strong Workers Safety Committees in each factory and working with our own suppliers and other stakeholders to ensure they are put in place.

Since 2013 we have had regular dialogue with suppliers in Bangladesh on how to use safety assessments and inspections to drive and develop action plans for improvement. We have a team of 50 colleagues based in Dhaka who visit our factories every day. This includes three full-time local labour standards experts. We also continue to review all other aspects of labour standards in our supply base, in line with our commitments as a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, and ensure that problems identified are addressed.

In addition to the work we have been doing with suppliers and with the Accord, we have also supported the work of the Ethical Trade Initiative’s  worker rights training programme. This programme is helping to improve worker-management relationships and engagement, as well as support wage improvement initiatives and a number of local charities including the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed.

Despite the positive progress we and our suppliers have made in the last 3 years, we know that there is still more work that needs to be done. For more information on our on-going work, please watch the video or click here.