CEO of the Italian-based fashion band Benetton, Biagio Chiarolanza, has admitted in an interview that his company was ‘indirectly’ receiving supply of T-shirts from a sub-contractor operating in one of the several garment factories in Rana Plaza. The collapse of the building in Dhaka last month claimed lives of more than 800 people.
Benetton’s initial statement following the incident was that it was not connected to any garment factories operating inside the collapsed building. However, when photos emerged in the media showing the company’s branded T-shirts lying in the rubble, Benetton immediately responded by saying that it was going to make funds available to the families of the victims.
Chiarolanza has admitted that it was receiving at least two major orders from one of the factories inside Rana Plaza through a sub-contractor company called the New Wave Company which was contacted by Benetton’s direct contractors in India.
The CEO has also stated that it stopped production with the sub-contractor in Bangladesh one month before the collapse of the building due to lack of quality and efficiency. He also said that manufacturing garments in Bangladesh helped the company to directly reach huge Asian markets like China etc.
Chiarolanza also admitted that his company never conducted a social audit of the working conditions when it was working with the New Wave Company because the time period of the association was very brief.
Following the horrific collapse of the building, names of many global fashion brands were highlighted which were associated to Rana Plaza in one way or another. While some honestly acknowledged their links, others rejected the claims of alleged connections.
The brands that have been found associated to the building are being criticized for their lack of scrutiny and monitoring of the working conditions in the Dhaka factory as well as for the (extremely) low-wages system. The workers in the under-developed country were not only being manipulated at the hands of major companies, they were also not being provided suitable and safe working conditions in the factories inside Rana Plaza.
Merely admitting or confessing trade relations will not do. These brands have to ‘visibly’ show their support and address the root causes of issues surrounding the labor in Bangladesh. Workers rights experts say that companies like Benetton operating in under-developed countries ought to sign a binding contract that forces them to pay for the maintenance and damages of the buildings. Such commitment would help to prevent such accidents in future and would ensure workplace safety.