April 24, 2023 marks the 10 year anniversary of the most horrific tragedy to affect the fashion industry. The Rana Plaza factory disaster in Dhaka Bangladesh, which housed 5 factories, killed more than 1,134 garment workers, and injured thousands more.
Workers expressed their concerns to the factory managers after seeing cracks in the walls, but their concerns were ignored. They were told they would lose their jobs if they didn’t carry on working as usual because they had a deadline to meet. This is the deadliest example of how the race to the bottom can have devastating effects.
The sustainability discourse of this exploitative industry tends to focus on environmental degradation, resource depletion and loss of biodiversity, rather than the human cost of our clothes. It should include the degradation of garment workers’ health, the depletion of their livelihood, and the loss of human lives.
But the Rana Plaza tragedy and other examples of human exploitation in the fashion industry cannot be blamed on any single person or corporation alone, the same way a single person or corporation cannot be expected to fix this. The system simply has to change.
The International Accord (named The Bangladesh Accord) is a legally binding agreement between 190 garment brands and global trade unions with a mission to ensure safe workplaces in the textile and garment industry. The agreement promotes worker safety through independent inspections, remediation, and training programs and recognizes the rights of workers to organize, refuse unsafe work and raise health and safety concerns. The Accord is an example of how best to engage the entire industry and all stakeholders in an effort to change. Garment workers, brands and factory owners all have a role to play.
And while there is progress being made when it comes to the working conditions, there is a very long road ahead to address human rights in fashion’s supply chains. So to mark this 10 year anniversary, we must continue to educate ourselves, share the story of Rana Plaza, and push for legislative action to create safer environments for garment workers worldwide.
Learn more with the help of the links below:
• Amnesty International’s push for protective legislation: https://amnesty.ca/human-rights-news/rana-plaza-disaster-no-laws/
• Fashion Revolution Week: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/frw-2023/