Big brands urged to back garment workers’ safety

A GROUP of socially responsible investors has urged 160 major re­tailers who source clothes from Bangladesh to back the extension of an agreement which promotes the safety of millions of workers in garment factories in the south Asian nation.  

The Bangladesh Investor Initi­ative, whose members are share­holders in several retailers, has asked the companies to support a three-year extension of a legally-binding accord to improve build­ing and fire safety across the tex­tile industry.  

The Bangladesh Accord was signed by global brands and trade unions in 2013 after the Rana Plaza disaster, when about 1,100 people were killed after a garment factory complex col­lapsed – sparking outrage over poor working conditions in the sector.  

Only 60 of the 220 companies in the Accord have signed an agreement to extend the pro­gramme until 2021, says the net­work of institutional investors, which represents nearly 150 in­vestors with collective assets val­ued at about $3.7 trillion.  

The Accord has signatory clothing brands and retailers from about 20 countries, such as Britain’s supermarket group Tesco, Swedish fashion group H&M and German sportswear giant Adidas. “It is critical to en­sure that future safety problems are detected before they become life-threatening events,” Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management said in a statement.  

The appeal follows a $2.3 mil­lion settlement this week by a global clothing brand to meet fire and building safety regulations in 150 factories in its supply chain in Bangladesh.