“Let Accord Operate Till Task Ends,” Say Sourcing Investors

ICCR

Fr. Séamus Finn, OMI

Some 153 global investors representing $2.8 trillion in assets have called for the continuation of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety (Accord) until it completes its mandate and government agencies are able to assume its responsibilities.

The investors issued a statement on Thursday in response to a June 2018 High Court ruling stipulating that the Accord’s operational authority will expire on December 1, says a statement from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

Agreeing that significant progress has been made since 2013, the Accord stakeholders claim that all of the original safety goals have not yet been fully achieved while the government was not fully ready to take over the Accord’s functions.

The statement was organised by the Bangladesh Investor Initiative, a coalition of global investors that coalesced in response to the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building outside Dhaka in 2013.

The investors, as shareholders in a number of companies sourcing products from Bangladesh’s garment sector, are concerned that the Accord’s precipitous termination will not only put workers at great risk but also threaten brands and investors reliant on a secure, safe workforce.

The investors urged the government of Bangladesh to make a re-submission to the High Court to enable the Accord to operate until a national safety regulatory body is established and fully prepared to assume control of the Accord’s mandate.

The same was stated in separate letters sent to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Commerce, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Anna Pot of APG Asset Management said, “Signatory companies partner with the Accord to root out worker health and safety issues. The Accord provides a level of assurance that their organisations 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,” she said.

The government, the Accord companies and unions and the BGMEA agreed to form a Transition Monitoring Committee (TMC) to evaluate the government’s readiness to take on the 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.

“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,” said David Schilling, senior programme director at the 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,” he said.

“The Accord must be allowed to finish its work if we are to prevent erosion of these hard-won gains,” he added.

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,” he said.