A decade of workplace health and safety under the Accord

Updates

May 15, 2023
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Statement

Amsterdam, 15 May 2023: 

Ten years ago, on 15 May 2013, the Accord on Fire Building and Safety in Bangladesh (Bangladesh Accord) was signed by global clothing companies, UNI and IndustriALL global trade unions, and NGO witness signatories, just three weeks after the Rana Plaza building collapse. This landmark agreement was born out of an urgent need to address the prevalence of serious factory accidents in the textile and garment industry. Ten years on, the Accord Secretariat reflects on the progress on worker safety in the past decade and our vision for the future.

Efforts under the Accord have focused on improving fire and building safety standards and strengthening the capacity of workers and factories in Bangladesh to identify, raise and address a broad range of occupational health and safety issues. Suppliers in Bangladesh have made significant safety improvements at their factories, with support from more than 220 brand signatories who have invested over 70 million USD to finance the Accord programs and operations in Bangladesh.

The Accord, and the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC)since 2020, have conducted nearly 56,000 inspections across over 2,400 garment factories in Bangladesh. Out of the 170,000 health and safety issues identified during these inspections, 140,000 have been corrected through measures such as installation of fire doors, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, fixing faulty electrical systems, and strengthening building structures.

Recognising that safe workplaces cannot be ensured without worker participation, more than 1,200 joint labour-management Safety Committees at Accord-covered factories are now trained and equipped to address and monitor factory safety on a day-to-day basis.

Workers have filed over 6,000 complaints with the independent complaints mechanism which Accord signatories provide.The resolution of these complaints has involved improvements in health and safety at the factory, disciplinary actions against perpetrators, payment of full severance benefits, provision of  maternity benefits, reduction of excessive working hours and reinstatements of workers.

“Since the Accord’s inception, its signatories and partners have contributed to the continuous and sustained remediation of health and safety risks at garment and textile factories in Bangladesh. Recognising that more remains to be done and against the backdrop of increasing human rights due diligence legislation, we look forward to a decade of greater collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to strengthen safety standards, support capacity building, and foster an environment of accountability and transparency in the textile and garment industry,” Joris Oldenziel, Executive Director, International Accord

Looking ahead, the Accord has a mission to encourage greater collaboration between different stakeholders, including brands, unions, manufacturers, governments, and civil society organisations for a safe and healthy garment and textile industry. We remain committed to building a safe and sustainable future for all workers in the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh and implementing the Pakistan Accord in close collaboration with the signatories and their local counterparts, the Pakistan government authorities and the garment and textile manufacturing industry.

On behalf of the Accord signatories,
The International Accord Secretariat

END


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Over 50 global brands and retailers have signed the Pakistan Accord

Updates

May 3, 2023

More than 50 global brands and retailers sign Pakistan Accord for Health and Safety in Textile and Garment Industry.

A total of 54 brands and retailers have thus far signed the Pakistan Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, with more expected to follow in the coming weeks. Among the latest signatories are Hugo Boss, Solo Invest, Uhlsport, and Kmart Australia. You can view the full list of Pakistan Accord signatories here.

The Pakistan Accord has been open to signature by global brands and retailers since 16 January 2023. On January 23, 2023, members of the Accord Steering Committee, including BESTSELLER, C&A, H&M, Inditex, Otto Group, and PVH Corp., released a statement reaffirming their commitment to the Accord and encouraging more brands to join.

“We invite all brands around the world to sign the Pakistan Accord and join us in our collective commitment to raise safety standards at supplier factories in Pakistan,” the statement reads.

The Pakistan Accord is a legally binding agreement between IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, and garment brands and retailers for an initial term of three years, starting in 2023. The program will be implemented through close collaboration and involvement of the Pakistan government authorities and the manufacturing industry.

We reiterate our invitation to all brands and retailers sourcing from Pakistan to sign the Pakistan Accord and join our collective mission of a safe and sustainable Pakistani textile and garment industry.


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10 years since the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh

Updates

April 24, 2023
Download statement (PDF)

Statement

Amsterdam, 24 April 2023:

April 24, 2023, marks 10 years since the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which killed 1,138 garment workers and injured 2,500 others. On this day, we remember those who perished, those who were injured, and those who continue living with the impacts of one of the worst workplace disasters in modern history.

The Rana Plaza collapse was an avoidable tragedy that could have been prevented with reasonable health and safety measures. A decade on, we wish to honour the memory of this tragedy’s victims by taking stock of how far workplace safety has come since Rana Plaza and acknowledging all that remains to be done.

The collective efforts of brands, manufacturers, trade unions, and civil society organisations with support from the local government have made significant strides in health and safety in the Bangladeshi textile and garment industry.

These efforts have included physical improvements like strengthening the structural integrity of factory buildings, the installation of fire doors, fire alarms, and enclosed staircases as well as addressing other occupational health and safety (OSH) issues like excessive working hours and gender-based violence and harassment through safety training at factories and a complaints mechanism for workers. Workers have been made aware of their right to refuse unsafe work and how to evacuate a building in case of a fire through Safety Committee training and all employee meetings in every factory.

The Accord and RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which carried forward Accord operations in Bangladesh since June 2020, have conducted nearly 56,000 fire, electrical, and building safety inspections at over 2,400 garment factories. Over 140,000 safety issues at these factories have been resolved, contributing to safer working conditions for workers.

While these efforts have borne tangible results in Bangladesh, the International Accord signatories have decided to extend these measures and learnings to Pakistan to ensure Pakistani textile and garment workers also have access to minimal health and safety measures including safe exits, fire alarm systems and workplaces with structural integrity.

“Together with our signatories and stakeholders, the Accord approaches the next decade with immense dedication and perseverance. We are determined to continue the health and safety work at factories in Bangladesh and contribute to a safer Pakistani textile and garment industry under the recently signed Pakistan Accord,” said Joris Oldenziel, Executive Director, International Accord.

On behalf of the Accord signatories,

International Accord Secretariat

END


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International Accord at the 4th UN South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights

Updates

March 22, 2023

The International Accord participated in the 4th UN South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights organised by UNDP Business and Human Rights Asia from 20-22 March 2023 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The forum brought together key stakeholders including governments, trade unions, civil society, businesses, UN agencies, and development partners that discussed over a dozen topics relevant to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) during the three-day deliberations.

International Accord participated in the plenary From Tragedy to Progress: Lessons from the Rana Plaza Building Collapse that analyzed the progress and highlighted the continued need to prioritize worker safety in the textile and garment industry. The session was moderated by Prof Pichamon Yeophantong, Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, and included insights from Shamim Ehsan (BKMEA), Mahruna Islam (UNDP) Kalpona Akter, Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity, and Zulfiqar Shah, Pakistan Consultant, International Accord.

The key discussion points included:

  • The contributions of the Accord in building a safer Bangladeshi garment industry.
  • The importance of awareness, trust, and collaboration in ensuring human rights in business.
  • The crucial role of stakeholder engagement, particularly the participation of local industry and government, in any new Accord country programs.
  • The opportunities in replicating the Accord model in other major garment-producing countries.
  • The benefits of legally binding agreements in ensuring transparency and accountability in garment supply chains.

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35 global brands and retailers have now signed the Pakistan Accord

Updates

February 23, 2023

35 signatories to the International Accord have signed the Pakistan Accord to ensure worker safety in the country’s textile and garment industry.

A total of 35 signatories to the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry have signed the recently announced Pakistan Accord to date, with multiple brands finalising internal details and expected to sign in the coming weeks. The Pakistan Accord is a legally binding agreement between global unions, IndustriALL and UNI Global Union, and garment brands and retailers for an initial term of three years starting in 2023.

The factory listing of these brands would cover approximately 300-400 facilities in Pakistan. The program in Pakistan will retain key features from the 2021 International Accord: independent safety inspections to address identified fire, electrical, structural and boiler hazards, monitor and support remediation, Safety Committee training and worker safety awareness program, an independent complaints mechanism, a commitment to transparency, and local capacity-building to enhance a culture of health and safety in the industry.

“We are excited that many major brands and retailers have already confirmed their commitment to working together with their suppliers in a collective effort to further enhance workplace safety in Pakistan. We are convinced the Pakistan Accord can benefit the industry and its workers and promote sustainable and long-term business relationships between brands and their Pakistani suppliers. We look forward to seeing more brands join in the coming days and weeks,” said Joris Oldenziel, Executive Director, International Accord Secretariat.

On January 23, 2023, Accord Steering Committee members brands BESTSELLER, C&A, H&M, Inditex, Otto Group, and PVH Corp. released a statement reaffirming their commitment to the Pakistan Accord and encouraging more brands to sign the agreement.

“We encourage all brands around the world to sign the Pakistan Accord agreement and join us in our collective commitment to raise the safety standards at supplier factories in Pakistan,” the statement reads.


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International Accord at the OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector

Updates

February 18, 2023

Event

The OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector was held online and offline (Paris, France) from 13-17 February 2023. The forum brought together representatives from government, business, trade unions, and civil society to promote transparency and due diligence in global garment supply chains.

In his capacity as the Dutch OECD National Contact Point, our Executive Director Joris Oldenziel moderated the session Due diligence costs and responsibilities: Collaborative approaches to buyer supplier relationships.

Speakers Sarah Dadush, Rutgers Law School, Xiaohui Liang from China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC), Michael Bride from PVH and Anant Ahuja from Shahi Exports shared current examples, challenges and benefits of buyer-supplier collaboration models on shared due diligence implementation.

The session underscored that human rights due diligence is a shared responsibility for all actors in the garment supply chain. Michael Bride from PVH Corp emphasised upon the central role played by brands and the need for responsible business conduct. Sharing his thoughts as an exporter, Anant Ahuja highlighted the need to focus on innovative ways to carry out due diligence by focusing on training, retaining and investing in the well-being of workers.

Citing the Accord as an example of collaborative approaches between buyers and suppliers, Shawn Islam, CEO, Sparrow Group of Industries and member of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said:

“The Accord worked out wonderfully; it is a good example of how a collaborative approach between suppliers and buyers with the government’s support can really make a tremendous difference. We have made a lot of progress since 2013 and have become one of the safest places to produce garments in terms of electrical safety, structural safety, and fire safety.”

View the recorded session here.

In addition, the International Accord participated in the side session Ensuring local stakeholder- and worker-inclusive supply chain grievance mechanisms organised by Fairwear Foundation, CNV Internationaal and Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien (Partnership for Sustainable Textiles) on 13 February 2023.

The session was attended by over 200 participants and discussed the approaches to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of grievance mechanisms for workers. Moderated by Dr. Jennifer Zerk, the session included insights from Fair Wear’s Valentine Wolfram, Suzan Cornelissen of CNV Internationaal, Elly Rosita from KSBSI, Emma Vogt from Clean Clothes Campaign, and Joris Oldenziel, Executive Director from International Accord.

View the recorded session here.


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OECD side session: Expansion of the International Accord to Pakistan

Updates

February 17, 2023

Event

The OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector was held online and offline (Paris, France) from 13-17 February 2023. The OECD forum brought together representatives from government, business, trade unions, and civil society to promote transparency and due diligence in global garment supply chains.

The International Accord organised a virtual side session as part of this forum on 13 February to discuss the challenges & opportunities for the recently launched Pakistan Accord. Around 110 participants across academia, media, government, industry associations and clothing brands joined this session.

Moderated by Joris Oldenziel, Executive Director of the International Accord, the session featured a distinguished panel of speakers who shared their perspectives on how best to implement the Pakistan Accord, so it works for and benefits everyone. The speakers reflected on the workplace safety program in Bangladesh and discussed how its learnings can be best adapted and applied to the Pakistan Accord.

Highlighting the key impact of the Accord on the Bangladeshi textile and garment industry, Masarrat Quader, H&M Group, and member of the Accord Steering Committee, shared that the safety assessments and trainings at nearly 1200 garment factories covered by the Accord have contributed to making Bangladesh one of the safest sourcing destinations in the world and have promoted responsible business conduct throughout the brands’ supply chains.

Christina Hajagos Clausen, IndustriALL Global Union and member of the International Accord Steering Committee, added that the Accord has put workers and industrial relations at the centre of the global conversation on a safer garment sector. She added that the Accord’s transparency mechanisms introduced in Bangladesh have encouraged more global brands and retailers to be open about their supplier lists, auditing reports and remediation plans. Furthermore, she underlined the critical role of the Accord complaints mechanism in ensuring workers have a way to raise concerns and safeguard their own health and safety at work.

Usman Rasheed, Taiga Apparel (Pvt.) Ltd (Pakistan), emphasised that instilling a culture of workplace safety, a trained workforce, and robust buyer-supplier relationships would be central to building a safer textile and garment industry in Pakistan.

Contextualising his experience with the Accord, Mohammed Sohel, Managing Director at Bangla Poshak Limited (Accord-covered factory) shared that the health and safety improvements made under and with the support of the workplace programs have contributed to doubling his factory’s turnover from $5 million to $10 million since 2013. He also highlighted the initial challenges faced by factories in Bangladesh and the importance of ensuring clear communication on safety requirements and financial support for remediation under the Pakistan Accord.

Bushra Baten, PVH Corp. (Bangladesh and Pakistan) underscored the shift in perspective on workplace health and safety as the biggest achievement of the Accord in Bangladesh. Her recommendations on the Accord implementation in Pakistan included open dialogue and consistent engagement with local stakeholders at every stage.

Kaschif Israr, Euro Centra (Pakistan), emphasised that health & safety improvement is an important mission for the industry and reiterated the need for proactive engagement with the Pakistani industry and creating open dialogue with factory owners to address their questions and bring all factories along on the journey.

We thank the panel for sharing their experience and insights on wide-ranging topics and look forward to continuing our engagement in the coming days.

The recorded session can be viewed here.


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Accord Steering Committee member brands affirm their commitment to Pakistan Accord

Updates

January 23, 2023

Accord Steering Committee member brands affirm their commitment to the workplace safety program in Pakistan, in close collaboration with their Pakistani suppliers and other stakeholders. 

The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry is an agreement between 190 global brands and retailers and 2 global union federations. Collectively, the Accord signatory brands source over $2.6 billion worth of garments and textiles from Pakistan. The undersigned brands, BESTSELLER, C&A, H&M, Inditex, Otto Group, and PVH Corp. represent Accord signatory brands on the Board of the International Accord.

Statement

The International Accord is preparing for continued engagement with Pakistani stakeholders in the coming weeks, as we take steps towards the establishment of a Pakistan Accord office and the commencement of programs.

We, together with our Accord brands’ colleagues, are committed to supporting our suppliers in meeting the highest safety standards. This includes efforts to establish local governance structures that ensure industry and local brand and union participation in decision-making in every phase of the program.

The International Accord aims to protect the health and safety of millions of workers while helping the industry achieve sustainable growth in exports. With the signing of the Pakistan Accord and our brands’ commitment to this new safety program, we are renewing our commitment to a long-term sourcing relationship with Pakistan.

The Pakistan Accord provides an opportunity both to increase the visibility of the efforts already made by many manufacturers to invest in fire and building safety measures in recent years and deepen and expand them throughout Pakistan’s garment and textile sector, making it an increasingly attractive option for buyers across the globe.

We encourage all brands around the world to sign the Pakistan Accord agreement and join us in our collective commitment to raise the safety standards at supplier factories in Pakistan.

Accord Steering Committee Member Brands,

BESTSELLER, C&A, H&M, Inditex, Otto Group, and PVH Corp.


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Accord signatories form Human Rights Due Diligence Working Group

Updates

January 5, 2023

Update on ongoing feasibility studies

Article 40 of the International Accord provides that the parties to the agreement will explore the expansion of the scope to address human rights due diligence. To this end, the Steering Committee agreed to create a Working Group consisting of brands and trade union representatives that would be chaired by the Accord Secretariat.

The Human Rights Due Diligence Working Group held its first meeting on 9th September 2022 and worked on a survey to be shared with Accord signatories, trade unions, and NGOs. The survey was shared in November and its results are currently being discussed by the working group. A summary of the findings will be shared with all signatories and respondents in the coming months.

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Pakistan Accord: Supplier Briefing #1

December 14, 2022

Supplier Briefing #1

These Supplier Briefings are designed for all factories/suppliers listed by Pakistan Accord signatory brands. They include updates on key developments under the Pakistan Accord, along with information on upcoming events, guidance materials, and resources for suppliers.

We encourage all suppliers/factories covered by the Pakistan Accord to read these briefings regularly and to share their recommendations, ideas, and suggestions by contacting us via pakistan.factories@internationalaccord.org.

This briefing includes:

  • The rationale for a Pakistan Accord
  • Key goals and benefits of the Pakistan Accord
  • What factories can expect once the programs start


In a Nutshell

  • The Pakistan Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry (Pakistan Accord) is an agreement between brands, retailers, and global trade unions to ensure health and safety at textile and garment factories supplying Accord signatory brands and retailers.
  • The Pakistan Accord agreement was announced on 14th December 2022 with the intention to begin implementation in early 2023.
  • The Pakistan Accord covers cut-make-trim (and vertically integrated) suppliers of ready-made-garments, home textile, fabric & knit accessories and fabric mills in company signatory supply chains. The timing and process of the implementation of the Accord in relation to not vertically integrated fabric mills will be determined by the Accord Steering Committee at a later stage.
  • Pakistan Accord safety programs include: Independent fire, electrical, structural and boiler safety inspections and remediation, safety committee training, independent complaints mechanism and local capacity-building.
  • For the first years, the costs of implementing Pakistan Accord programs are funded by the brands and retailers that sign the Accord. Accord signatories commit to negotiating commercial terms with their individual suppliers to ensure that remediation is financially feasible.


The Rationale for an Accord Program in Pakistan

Whilst much has been done to advance working conditions in the garment and textile industry globally, fires and other preventable safety incidents are still prevalent in the industry.

Since September 2021, the International Accord signatories and staff have been exploring the feasibility of establishing factory safety programs in key garment and textile producing countries, including Pakistan, as a significant source of garments and textiles for Accord signatories. The Accord Secretariat assessed the feasibility of expansion through signatory surveys, desk research, interviews, and local stakeholder consultations. Pakistan emerged as a priority country, in part because of its increasing importance as a garment and textile sourcing country for the Accord brands and the opportunity to renew EU trade benefits.


National Governance Body 

A national governance body will be established which will include national constituents, including industry, brands, trade unions, and others upon agreement. The mandate and composition will be determined through a consultative process, which the Accord Secretariat and brand and union representatives will initiate immediately starting in January 2023.


Key Goals of the Pakistan Accord 

The safety programs which will be established under the Pakistan Accord aim to achieve the following outcomes at factories supplying to the Pakistan Accord signatory brands:

  1. Compliance with fire, electrical, structural, and boiler safety standards.
  2. Functional safety committees and informed workers who address and monitor health and safety at factories.
  3. A trusted avenue for workers to raise health and safety concerns through an effective complaints mechanism.
  4. Collaboration with government institutions, ILO – Better Work Pakistan, and other similar initiatives to build capacity and enhance a culture of health and safety in the country.


Benefits For Manufacturers To Participate In the Accord 

  • Achieve health and safety standards to protect all workers from preventable health and safety incidents.
  • Access technical support and advice to implement corrective actions identified by qualified engineers during fire, electrical, structural and boiler safety inspections in accordance with global safety standards.
  • Comprehensive training for labour management health and safety committees, promoting constructive labour relations and joint problem solving between factory management and workers.
  • Effective resolution of worker grievances through the Accord’s health and safety complaints mechanism, which conforms to United Nations’ standards for effective grievance mechanisms.
  • Strengthen and potential increase commercial relationships with more than 180 global brands and retailers signed up to the Accord by giving assurance of health and safety standards through independent Accord monitoring.
  • Reduce audit fatigue through collective monitoring of workplace safety for more than 180 global brands and retailers.
  • Gain public recognition for maintaining health and safety standards because remediated factories are listed on the Accord website.


What Factories Can Expect When the Accord Programs Start

Identifying factories to participate in the Pakistan Accord

  • In early 2023, the Accord will publish a list of all brands and retailers that sign the Pakistan Accord on internationalaccord.org.
  • Signatory brands will prepare a list of the garment and textile facilities supplying them in Pakistan and may seek additional data from each factory about each supplier’s facilities to assist Accord prioritisation of program rollout.
  • Around March 2023, the Accord will publish the list of factories producing for all Pakistan Accord signatory brands, without mentioning which company signatories are sourcing at each factory.

Phased rollout of Accord programs

  • The Accord will identify the first batch of factories to begin implementing Accord programs.
  • The Accord will work with the selected factories to prepare for and schedule initial inspections.
  • Fire, structural, electrical, and boiler inspections will be conducted and reports will be shared with each factory and their signatory brand customers.
  • Each factory will be invited to meet the Accord team to discuss the inspection findings and remediation solutions, then requested to develop a suitable Corrective Action Plan (CAP).
  • The inspection reports and CAP will be published on the Accord website.
  • The Accord will conduct follow-up inspections to monitor remediation progress.

Public recognition for implementing workplace safety programs 

  • When a factory has fully remediated findings from the initial inspections, the factory will receive a letter of recognition and the Accord will make a public statement recognising that factory’s remediation.
  • When a factory has completed the Safety Committee training program, this will be recorded on the Accord’s public factory list.


The Accord Safety Standard

After consultations with government authorities and engineering experts in Pakistan, the Accord will publish a Pakistan Accord Standard in early 2023 which references the relevant Pakistan Building Codes. This Standard will be the basis for the Pakistan Accord inspections and remediation program. In case factories inspected by the Accord want to discuss a particular interpretation of the Standard regarding their factory safety measures, there will be an opportunity to raise this with an Accord Lead Engineer and ultimately the Chief Safety Officer.


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