LONDON – UK retailer, Marks & Spencer, has finally signed the 2018 Bangladesh Accord amid growing public pressure. M&S follows in the footsteps of a raft of recent high profile signatories, including John Lewis, Matalan and New Look. However, despite more than 130 companies having now signed the Accord, many – among them Abercrombie & Fitch, Next and Sainsbury’s – are yet to commit.
Brands yet to sign have, among other reasons, claimed to be still in the decision making process, however, most industry observers agree that this excuse is wearing somewhat thin given that Accord 2.0 was launched nine months ago. Such reasoning is also at odds with the fact that many retailers managed to make a decision on this issue within weeks of the 2018 Bangladesh Accord’s launch.
For a long time many companies were also stalling because of uncertainty about the fee structure, but that has been clarified since early February.
A spokesperson from the Clean Clothes Campaign told Apparel Insider: “Since the establishment of the fee structure many more brands have signed, both small and very big ones, so cost does not seem to be a structural issue. Some companies have been hiding behind the fact that their factories are almost fully remediated, especially if they have only few suppliers in Bangladesh.”
They added: “Two things that we’ve been hearing are quite worrying. Firstly is that if a brand does not sign the Accord that it could replace it by [its] own monitoring system. We have heard several brands say this to media. This is an illusion. Private auditing schemes have failed to prevent Rana Plaza, despite inspections. They have failed to recognise the flaws in the Ali Enterprises building in Pakistan, which was certified only weeks before the deadly fire in 2012. Private schemes are no credible alternative to the Accord.
“Secondly is the idea that the government of Bangladesh could take over all these tasks and could do so on a short notice. Of course the goal of the Transition Accord is to hand over its tasks eventually to the Government of Bangladesh, but it will take time before the government is willing and able to take up those tasks. Above all apparel companies continue to have a due diligence obligation towards their supply chain separate from government responsibility. Saying the government needs to take care of this, is not enough.”