Some of the UK’s leading retail chains are yet to sign up to a deal that will ensure safety standards at factories in Bangladesh which undertake much of their garment production.
John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Next, Debenhams and Sainsbury’s are among those yet to sign up to Bangladesh’s latest laws on fire and building safety.
The renewed agreement is aimed at greater investment in health and safety checks, which will come into effect after an original 2013 agreement expires in May.
The so-called “Accord 2.0” improves further upon the original agreement created after the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013, described as the world’s worst garment industry accident which claimed 1,135 lives.
It brought together over 200 international fashion brands, factory owners and unions and has seen more than $55 million invested in safety monitoring, training of health and safety committees, and site inspections by 200 trained engineers.
While 60 brands using nearly 1,200 Bangladesh factories, such as Adidas, H&M, Lidl and Primark, have already signed up to the renewed pact, some of the UK retailers have expressed reservations.
“We remain committed to this issue and will continue to support local manufacturers, helping them reach the highest standards in safety,” a spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said.
Meanwhile, M&S, John Lewis, Debenhams and Next said they are in discussions and still considering their options.
“If Next decides not to sign Accord 2 – it is confident that it already has a competent, directly employed code of practice team (and office) in place in Bangladesh, to manage safety in that region,” a spokesperson said.
The reluctance on the part of some of the British retailers is believed to centre around concerns over costs and possible lack of support from factory owners and the Bangladesh government.
Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary of the international union IndustriALL, warned:
“Brands need to stay with the accord. Otherwise, all the hard work and money they have invested will quickly be undermined.”