Today investors are releasing a statement endorsed by 153 investors representing US$2.8 trillion in assets, calling for the continuation of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety (Accord) until it has completed its mandate and government agencies are able to assume the Accord’s responsibilities going forward.
The statement is in response to a June 2018 ruling bythe High Court of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh that the Accord’s authority to operate will expire on December 1st, 2018. While Accord stakeholders agree significant progress has been made since 2013, they claim all of the original safety goals have not yet been fully achieved nor is the government of Bangladesh fully ready to take over the functions of the Accord.
The statement was organized by the Bangladesh Investor Initiative, a coalition of global investors that coalesced in response to the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building outside of Dhaka in 2013. As shareholders in a number of the companies sourcing products from the Bangladesh garment sector, the investors are concerned that the precipitous termination of the Accord will not only put workers at great risk, but threatens brands and investors reliant on a secure, safe workforce.
In the investor statement, and in separate letters to the Ministry of Labor and Employment, Ministry of Commerce, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMA) investors are advocating that the government of Bangladesh make a re-submission to the High Court to enable the Accord to operate until such time as a national safety regulatory body is established and fully prepared to assume control of the Accord’s mandate.
Said Anna Pot of APG Asset Management, “Signatory companies partner with the Accord to root out worker health and safety issues. The Accord provides a level of assurance that their organizations will not be unduly exposed to human rights risks. Without the local activities of the Accord, brands would be under even more pressure to find alternative ways of gaining assurance that their suppliers operate responsibly.”
The government of Bangladesh, the Accord companies and unions and the BGMA agreed to form a Transition Monitoring Committee (TMC) to evaluate the government’s readiness to take on its duty to protect the safety of garment factory workers. The parties agreed that only when the criteria established by the TMC were met would the Accord then initiate a six-month process of winding down its operations. The High Court’s decision pre-empts this collaborative TMC process.
“Investors have closely tracked the progress of the Accord in inspecting, remediating and training workers to be the ‘eyes’ on the factory floor to see and respond to safety issues as they emerge,” commented David Schilling, senior program director at ICCR. “The success of the Accord model relies on the unprecedented collective action of brands, their suppliers and trade unions which has proven to be extremely effective in reforming the sector. The Accord must be allowed to finish its work if we are to prevent erosion of these hard-won gains.”
Rev. Séamus Finn, OMI and ICCR Board Chair said, “The Rana Plaza collapse focused global attention on the grave risks workers in the Bangladesh garment sector have faced for decades. As this statement demonstrates, the investment community is resolved in its commitment to see the sector reformed once and for all. If left to complete its mandate, the Accord will do just that.”
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 47th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300 member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $400 billion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. www.iccr.org