By Matthew Milasius
On April 24th, 2013 the collapse of a garment factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh killed over 1,100 people and injured more than 2,500 others. Many of the victims were young women, namely garment workers making clothing bearing the names of many well-known Western brands.
In this featured news broadcast piece, PBS correspondent John Yang talks with Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. The Stern Center recently released a report assessing the state of Bangladesh’s garment factories five years later, coming to a few key findings:
- Overall, factories that supply to major Western brands are safer in terms of electrical systems, fire prevention, sprinkler systems, alarms and structural integrity as a result of inspections by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.
- The number of significant accidents (resulting in more than five deaths and/or 10 injuries) dropped from 17 in 2013 to 4 in 2017.
- Up to 3,000 sub-supplying factories remain largely unmonitored by Western groups or the Bangladeshi government. While larger suppliers can afford to make improvements, much of the rest of the industry either cannot or will not yet make expenditures to enhance safety.
Barrett points out a number of gaps that remain in government enforcement that his team discovered on visiting factories. One factory owner purchased a fire safety plan that was necessary to join a trade association, but has never implemented it. Another factory owner received a list of fire safety guidelines from a Bangladeshi government inspector, but has since lost the paper.
What is the cost of social compliance for garment importers?
Enforcing compliance and bringing factories up to standard isn’t cheap. The Stern Center estimates a remediation cost of $250,000 per-factory.
Monitoring sub-suppliers in your supply chain is a challenge for both product QC and social compliance. But luckily the price tag is far smaller than $250,000 for small- and medium-sized importers. Diligently auditing your suppliers to assess compliance and conducting follow-up audits to assess implementation of corrective actions can help hold factories accountable (related: Social Compliance for Garment Factories: How You Can Avoid Disasters).
One of the major Western compliance programs, the Alliance, is set to expire this year, making it more important than ever for Western importers to take on compliance issues themselves. Follow the link below to watch the video or read the transcript and learn more about the compliance risks for importers manufacturing in Bangladesh:
Matthew Milasius is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in Asia for clients in the US, EU and Australia.