It has been almost two years since the Rana Plaza factory collapse outside of Dakka, Bangladesh. The disaster was not only the worst accident to hit the global garment industry, but it was also the deadliest structural accident in human history. It may have fallen out of memory for many consumers, but not for the families and friends of the 1,134 killed and about 2,000 more injured; many of the survivors endured harrowing experiences in order to escape the eight-story factory collapse. At least 29 companies were tied to Rana Plaza, including Walmart, Mango, The Children’s Place, Primark and Benetton, the Italy-based fashion house.
In the wake of the tragedy, the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) backed a fund that was tasked with collecting about US$30 million to compensate victims and the families. So far, about US$21 million has been collected, according to the Guardian. But one company with ties to the collapse was holding out: Benetton.
At first the company denied any link to Rana Plaza, despite company-branded debris found throughout the complex’s rubble in the wake of the disaster. Benetton then claimed it was supporting another fundraising scheme organized by a Bangladeshi NGO, but activists in Bangladesh and abroad were not having it. A petition drive launched on the campaign site Avaaz, and shortly afterward Benetton announced last week that it would contribute to the fund.
Several organizations joined in the campaign to pressure Benetton to contribute to the victims’ fund: Clean Clothes Campaign and Labor Behind the Label were among the NGOs highlighting the outrage in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. But the fact over one million people signed the Avaaz petition in less than two weeks was too much of a force for Benetton to ignore.
Activists are hoping Benetton will fill the gap and pay the remaining US$9 million so all victims will be fairly compensated. To date, Primark is the largest contributor, with US$8 million paid to the fund. Companies that have sourced from Bangladesh but not specifically Rana Plaza, including The Gap and VF Corporation, have contributed money, but NGOs claim some companies, including Walmart, have not paid enough considering how much they have sourced from the factory. Meanwhile there have not been enough funds to compensate all of the victims, with the Guardian stating only 5,000 people received 40 percent of the money to which they are entitled. The fast fashion companies that pride themselves on quickly moving cheap clothes from factory to store shelves could certainly do more see Rana Plaza’s victims and families are compensated fairly for what they have endured for far too long.
Based in California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Image credit: Labor Behind the Label