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DHAKA – Around a dozen more brands have signed up to the 2018 Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety after the actual costs involved were made clear to brands by the Accord steering committee at the end of last week. At the time of writing, the number of signatories has reached 76, and is edging up slowly, albeit with some notable names missing.

While some of the names not to have signed don’t come as a particular surprise, others do – notably Puma, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Next and Fast Retailing, the Japanese fast fashion brand which has massively upped its game on CSR issues in recent times. There are still more than 130 brands left to sign, though we expect a raft of further signatories in the coming weeks.

Last year, Accord signatories announced that the Accord would be extended for three more years beyond its original deadline in 2018, to allow the current process of safety improvements to continue. In October 2017 brand and trade union signatories to the Accord, the BGMEA, and the Bangladesh Ministers of Commerce and Labour agreed the Accord will continue its work until local regulatory bodies meet a set of rigorous conditions.

When Apparel Insider spoke to Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary at IndustriALL Global Union, she confirmed a fresh spate of signatures. “There were questions around cost but a recent decision of the Accord steering committee has confirmed the fees and many more brands have signed up since this was made clear,” she told us.

As we recently reported, an Accord brand recently agreed to pay US$2m to help its Bangladeshi suppliers fix safety issues. Could such cases act as a deterrent for brands signing the new Accord? Holdcroft claimed there is, “no evidence of this,” adding: “They were not asked to pay – this was a settlement reached in an arbitration case, of which there were only two.”

The brand paying the US$2m above remained anonymous under the terms of its settlement. We put it to Holdfroft that this seemed anomalous in this age of so-called transparency.

She told us: “The settlement arose from a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration which required confidentiality. The terms of this second settlement allowed us to report on the content of the settlement whereas for the first settlement [another brand also paid a similar settlement in December 2017] we were not able to do even this.”

A fair enough answer, but as indicated, it does seem unjust – and disappointing to say the least – that brands in cases such as this should be granted anonymity.

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