In 2013, the Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh in the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of apparel manufacturing, killing 1,129 people and propelling stakeholders into action.
More than 200 garment factories signed a contract, vowing to create a Bangladeshi garment industry “in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.”
One of them was Swedish retailer H&M, the largest garment buyer from Bangladesh.
This year, Clean Clothes, a coalition of European organizations campaigning for garment workers' rights, investigated the extent to which H&M had stayed true to its words.
Unfortunately, their report yielded some extremely terrifyingly results.
It turns out, even two years after the tragic catastrophe of Rana Plaza, the apparel company is “dramatically behind schedule” in making actual improvements in the factories it sources from.
Clean Clothes scrutinized only 56 of the 229 factories H&M uses in the country. These suppliers are dubbed "gold" and "platinum," and their working conditions are presumed better than the rest – which basically means the working conditions in others could be way worse.
Clean Clothes focused on specific safety violations, like locking, sliding and collapsible doors that make it harder for workers to escape, and the absence of safe fire exits.
“ [The lack of appropriate fire exits] is the defect that has been the primary culprit in virtually every mass fatality fire in the Bangladesh garment industry,” the report states.
Clean Clothes found 61% of these factories do not have fire exits, putting 78,842 employees at risk; 55% have not removed sliding and collapsible doors. As for the ones that do have fire exits, the escape ways are too narrow and steep to be deemed safe.
H&M claims that the remediation work slowed down due to technical and structural issues in the factories. However, if that is true, the Swedish retailer will have to explain why it assured its consumers that most of the work undertaken to protect workers had been completed.
Launching "diverse campaigns" is not enough – it's about time these retailers take some responsibility and work upon improving conditions for their employees. Because if things remain the same way, the world could be looking at another structural and industrial disaster.
Is your discount top worth the life of another person?
Read More: No Deal On Bangladesh Garment Disaster Damages