Joris Oldenziel, head of Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement of Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, came up with the remarks while talking to a group of journalists at his office in the Netherlands.
Separate social audits with several standards cost the manufacturers and the buyers high while it is a waste of money by both of them, which is not desirable, Joris said.
“Personally, I want a common standard for social audits as well as safety inspection. It reduces cost and time for both the manufacturers and the brands.”
“But I have no authority to advise it to the buyers. The lesson of working together is very positive and the level of cooperation is much stronger,” added Joris.
Social audits are conducted following different standards. It costs higher and consumes more time, thus pushing the production cost up, BGMEA vice-president Mohammed Nasir told the Dhaka Tribune.
If the buyers fix a common set of standards for social audit, it will help save time and money, he added.
Social audit is an inspection, wherein a given standard or code of conduct is verified through periodic audits by a third party of auditors nominated by buyers or by brands.
It is carried out to ensure workers’ rights and safe workplace for workers in the RMG sector.
Workplace condition, child labour, forced labour, freedom of association, workers’ harassment and abuse, wages, working hours, leave and holidays, health, welfare, safety, environment and women’s rights are considered in the social audit.
Currently, buyers conduct social audit to learn about the working conditions and workers rights. While, the Accord as well as the Alliance on Worker Safety is conducting safety inspection to improve safety standards in the RMG sector.
Talking on the safety inspection progress, Joris said Bangladesh has made significant progress after the Rana Plaza incident, but there is concern over labour rights, mentioning the recent unrest at Ashulia.
Definitely, the buyers’ mindset has changed following the Rana Plaza disaster that has changed the safety standards in the RMG sector in Bangladesh.
Presenting the overall update of Accord inspection, the Accord official said lack of financing should not be the reason behind the delay in implementing the corrective action plan.
As of the latest update, a total of 48 factories have completed all remediation works. 75% of identified safety issues reported have been verified while 300 factories completed more than 90% of remediation.
A total of 1,348 factories are behind the schedule. The Accord inspected 1,600 RMG units.
It will give time for relocation and is negotiating with the stakeholders to extend the tenure of the Accord, which is set to expire by the end of June 2018.
A widespread public outcry over safety began following the Rana Plaza factory disaster that killed more than 1,135 workers and injured over 2,500 people on April 24, 2013.
In the wake of the disaster, the Accord on Fire and Building safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety took a five-year initiative to improve fire, electrical and building safety standard in RMG factories from which their members source products.