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AMSTERDAM – 150 fashion and textile businesses have now signed the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, according to an update from Clean Clothes. However, the NGO claims many leading global brands are refusing to sign, including Levi’s, Gap, Walmart and Sears among dozens of others. Clean Clothes will this week begin a public campaign against brands that have failed to sign the Accord.

The original Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh came about on 2013 in response to the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, while the most recent programme took effect on 1 September 2021 and has committed to expanding the enforceable Accord model beyond Bangladesh. Pakistan appears the most likely destination if the Accord expands beyond Bangladesh.

Levi’s, despite sourcing from at least two dozen factories in Bangladesh, has failed to sign the two previous Accord agreements. US retailers generally have been less inclined to sign the Accord than their European counterparts. Clean Clothes and other NGOs claim non-signers are “free-riding on the efforts” of other Accord signatories, which at present include the likes of Uniqlo, Next, Varner, G-Star, and Sainsbury’s.

The new campaign will continue to target both brands that did sign the Accord before, or which were even producing in the Rana Plaza building, but that failed to sign the new agreement, as well as brands who have never signed a previous Accord agreement and are instead relying on their own accountability systems or corporate social auditing.

Kalpona Akter, president of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) and founder of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), said: “We urge all brands that source from Bangladesh to take responsibility for the safety of their workers by signing the International Accord. There are too many brands out there that keep on hiding behind their own corporate programmes without independent oversight, or behind non-transparent industry programmes like Nirapon that are not trusted by the workers. Brands’ self-regulation has never saved our workers’ lives. The Accord is the highest standard the garment industry has, and any brand that produces in Bangladesh and fails to sign it, is basically saying they don’t care about their workers’ safety.”

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