Many moons have passed since April 2013 when the Rana Plaza building containing three clothing factories collapsed in Bangladesh taking with it the lives of over 1100 workers, and injuring countless more – locals say the building housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including Benetton, JC Penney, C&A and Wal-Mart. This collapse followed the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. Pro-labor advocates blamed the disasters not just on a lack of regulations, but on a pattern of violent suppression of workers’ organizing efforts. Although the US imposed trade sanctions on Bangladesh to pressure them to clean up their act, progress has been disappointing. Similarly the fight to get retailers to compensate victims is perhaps predictably mired with only a third of the $40 million total needed to compensate survivors and families of the dead for lost income and medical expenses having been contributed 12 months after the event according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.
Half the brands associated with the building’s collapse have yet to put any money at all towards compensation — at least, not publicly.
Notwithstanding that, the disaster effectively pressured retailers to be more discriminating about their supply chain, and happily the latest to publicise the results of the clean-up is Target Australia which has just published its factory list. Kudos. Oxfam Australia’s corporate accountability and fair trade adviser, Daisy Gardener, said Kmart and Woolworths had aslo joined, “in being open and accountable about exactly where its clothes are made”.
Changing consumer attitudes towards fast fashion is another thing altogether.