Fast fashion has its benefits for sure: look-alike designer fashions for wallet friendly prices. What’s not to love? A lot, actually. Fast fashion companies such as H&M and Zara are unfortunately the forerunners in factory accidents and tragedies, no doubt do in part to their quick turnovers.
The recent Bangladesh factory accident, along with other recent tragedies, has sparked the demand for labor reform in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Complaints and concerns over the issue have been prevalent throughout the past few years, but now more than ever, we need to do something. In no way is affordable fashion worth compromising the health and safety of factory workers.
Finally, H&M, Inditex (the company that owns Zara) and C&A (a popular Dutch fashion chain) have all signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. This movement comes after months of urging from labor reform groups. Companies that have already taken the pledge to ensure factory safety include PVH (the parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod) and Tchibo, a German retailer.
These companies’ signatures hold them to a five-year legally binding plan, in which retailers will be required to help finance fire safety and building improvements in the factories they use in Bangladesh. This also includes an increase in rigorous and independent factory safety inspections and the funding for any necessary improvements.
Previous to this pledge, safety compliance of factories was up to the factory owners, who poorly completed their jobs due to lack of funds or criminal negligence. Now, the responsibility of these factories is in the hands of the retailer companies that commission the work, as it should be.
Hopefully, companies the such as H&M that have made the recent commitment to more sustainable and transparent labor practices will inspire other companies to do the same. One such company that needs to be inspired is Gap. Gap has not signed onto the plan because, according to the retailer, they have hired their own fire inspector and promised $22 million for factory improvements. Something tells me this may not pan out exactly as they expect us to believe.
This new effort in no way means that unfair labor practices and factory accidents will end completely. It is, however, a small step in the right direction. We have a long way to go, but every effort helps. Hopefully, other retailers will follow suit.
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