18 April 2018
Next week marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, which claimed the lives of 1,134 people and injured approximately 2,500. Five years on from the building collapse, many people continue to work in dangerous and exploitative conditions in garment factories across Bangladesh.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (also know as the ‘Bangladesh Accord’), signed in the wake of the catastrophe, committed more than 220 global garment brands and retailers to improve working conditions in their factories in the country. This protects more than 2.1 million workers in over 1,600 factories. When the agreement expires in May, it is hoped that all signatories will re-commit to a replacement Transition Accord.
With less than a month to go until current Accord expires, there is only one major UK brand that has failed to sign the new agreement: Sainsbury’s.
Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP and Chair of the European Parliament’s South Asia delegation, has written to Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe urging his company to sign the Transition Accord.
Click here to read Jean’s letter to Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Mike Coupe, or read the full text below.
17 April 2018
Dear Mr Coupe,
Signing 2018 Bangladesh Accord
24 April will be the fifth anniversary of the devastating Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh in which 1,134 workers were killed and over 2,000 were permanently injured.
Following Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh Accord was set up as a legally binding agreement between brands, retailers and trade unions to ensure a safe working environment in Bangladesh’s ready made garment industry.
I am writing to you because Sainsbury’s signed the 2013 Bangladesh Accord but has not yet signed the 2018 Accord. This replaces the current Accord, which lapses in May 2018.
As Chair of the European Parliament’s South Asia Delegation I have led numerous Parliamentary missions to Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza disaster, taking a close interest in safety in the garment industry. As part of these I have met trade unions, the ILO, garment manufacturers and fashion brand managers. I have seen the value of the Accord and would like to stress the importance of companies reaffirming their commitments by continuing as signatories to the 2018 Accord.
The Accord’s purpose is to enable a working environment in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures. During its five years, it has delivered important progress.
It covers more than 2.1 million workers and over 1,600 factories. Each factory covered by the Accord is independently inspected for fire, electrical and structural safety. The inspection reports are shared with factory owners, the related Accord signatory companies and worker representatives. The Accord also provides a ground-breaking and essential legally binding framework and commitment to transparency.
Since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Bangladeshi garment industry has grown – it is now estimated at US$6.6 billion in annual revenue —and so has the Accord’s importance. The new 2018 Accord extends independent, expert building safety inspections for three more years for all covered factories, ensuring that safety improvements achieved under the first Accord will be maintained and that new problems in any factory will be addressed.
At the time of writing, 143 companies have now signed up to the 2018 Accord. These include many UK high street companies such as Debenhams, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Next, Primark, and Tesco, and a large number of well-known international brands.
I am writing to urge Sainsbury’s to join these companies and also sign up to the 2018 Accord. I would be very pleased to hear if this letter has been overtaken by events and your company has already decided to sign up.
I look forward to your assurance on this important issue
Jean Lambert MEP
Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London