On April 24, the Rana Plaza, located in a suburb near Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed upon itself—eight stories of iron and cement crumbled to earth killing more than 1,000 workers. The building was home to garment factories producing apparel for companies in the United States and Europe. A Time.com report names some of the companies that were producing goods at Rana Plaza, either at the time of the building collapse or in the past.
The Rana Plaza disaster comes on the back of other recent, fatal events in Bangladesh garment factories and global outrage about the event puts pressure on corporations whose products are manufactured in the country. In response, The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is receiving more attention and support. Quartz has published a visual explanation of the accord, outlining the different roles of the groups involved: buyers (multinational corporations), trade unions and The International Labour Organization.
As companies have expressed their support for the accord by signing onto the conditions it outlines, North American companies have been noticeably absent. News sources cite “concerns about legal liability” as the issue keeping large, high-profile North American companies from signing the accord. Many of these companies explain that they are involved in other safety measures: strengthening their own audit requirements, joining third-party organizations doing similar work or working on alternate proposals.
There were however, two North American companies who joined their peers in European countries by signing onto the accord. PVH Corporation, the parent company to Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Izod, Van Heusen, Bass and Arrow was one of two companies who signed onto an earlier version of the accord and, on May 13th, they announced their continued commitment by signing and inviting “industry partners” to join them. Only one other North American company followed suit, Abercrombie & Fitch. The company’s sustainability director, Kim Harr, expressed Abercrombie & Fitch’s unified commitment to Bangladesh.
Heidi Sistare is a freelance writer who just completed the documentary writing and multimedia storytelling program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. She holds a BA in Social Work from Warren Wilson College and has experience in non-profit management, community development, and planning for small businesses. Visit her website at: www.heidisistare.com