Raconteur

Supply Chain 2015

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The tragedy drew global attention, not just because it emerged that at least 27 global garment brands had current or recent orders with the five factories at the time of the collapse, but also because many of those who died had been ordered back into the building even though it had been evacu- ated the day before because giant cracks had appeared in the walls. As a result, the disaster threw a glaring spotlight on global clothing brands and their responsibility for the workers who make their products in factories across the world, in terms of safety, working condi- tions and wages. Unlike previous garment factory incidents, this time the industry reacted rapidly. More than 190 companies, including many whose products were not made at Rana Plaza, have signed the Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding and independent agreement designed to make all garment factories there safe workplac- es. Signatories include adidas, Marks & Spencer, Matalan, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Primark. Primark was one of the brands most under scrutiny as a company that prides itself on the cheapness of its clothes. Immediately after the disaster, it confirmed that one of its suppliers occupied the building and issued a statement of condolence. Within two weeks, it had announced a package of compensation for workers affected and the families of the dead, and soon after it con- firmed that it would sign up to the accord. When it became apparent that the indus- try-wide mechanism for compensation payments was becoming bogged down, it committed to make short-term payments to workers and dependents of anyone involved, not just those producing Primark clothes, as well as funding food aid for about 1,000 families. Within two months of the disaster, the com- pany announced a programme of building surveys to assess the structural integrity of factories where it sources garments, because the implementation of the accord would take time. After one of its first inspections, it asked a supplier, Liberty Fashions, to evacuate an unsafe building and offered support to help it do so. When the company refused, Primark terminated its contract. As other brands continued to wrangle over the details of compensation, Primark committed to make further compensation payments in October 2013 to all 3,600 Rana Plaza workers, even though most were working for their competitors, and called on the rest of the industry to do the same. In April 2013, more than 1,100 people lost their lives and a further 2,000 were injured when Rana Plaza, a building housing five garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed – the disaster had lasting implications RISING FROM THE DEBRIS Case Study SUPPLY CHAIN ONLINE: WWW.RACONTEUR.NET/SUPPLY-CHAIN-2015 TRAGEDY RESULT CHALLENGE RESPONSE LESSONS LEARNT Image: Getty

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