To my shame, I confess

 … that it was only yesterday – May Day, the ancient spring festival of merriment and rolling in the dew, and the more modern celebration of Workers of the World Unite, You have Nothing to Lose but your Chains! – that I realised it is two years and a week since the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Two years on, and while the first movers such as Primark/UK, Loblaw/Canada and H&M/Sweden (which last, while certainly sourcing from Bangladesh was not at the time sourcing from contractors in the Rana Plaza building) are still closely involved with compensation, recovery, administration, and ensuring such a disaster never happens again – TWO YEARS ON – the compensation fund has a ~$6m shortfall and, according to several reliable sources, about ONE THIRD of companies known to have been using manufacturing facilities in the building have so far paid nothing, or a derisory amount, into the compensation fund. I don’t know which is worse – to pay nothing, or to donate an insultingly small amount. Walmart/Asda. Bennetton, Mango. Matalan and others – SHAME ON YOU!

While in a certain sense I agree with those who say that the responsibility for, and root cause of the disaster rests with the corruption and incompetence inherent in the Bangladeshi government and administration, I do not believe it is either ethical or responsible for the companies involved to wash their hands of the issue. No-one will ever convince me that no-one in a massive, profitable corporation with a turnover equivalent to the GDP of many a small, poor nation, was aware of issues in their supply chain – of corners being cut, regulations being breached, or even the absence of any regulations at all, Of course the problem is greater than can be dealt with by a retail empire, however profitable and well-meaning that empire might be – yet surely a retail empire based in a country which enjoys stable democratic government and efficient infrastructure, owes a certain duty of care to all those who enable it to make the massive profits it enjoys, wherever they may be?

From everything I’ve read on CleanClothes, the ILO and the Ethical Trading Initiative’s websites, and heard from my Bangladeshi friends, when or if I want ‘Fast Fashion’ – in my case, usually socks and knickers, that’s all! – I’ll have no qualms about buying from Primark or Tesco, who are, and were prior to the disaster, well-known for being more ‘picky’ than most other companies sourcing in Bangladesh. H&M too, if I take teenagers shopping. There’s no ‘perfect brand’ but there’re certainly ‘less bad’ ones.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting soft in my old age, and I found tears welling in my eyes as I read Primark’s ‘progress report’ re the disaster on their website, here, and the short video was haunting.

That’s all for now. Back to normal programming tomorrow, with something about sewing. Or clothes. or fabric. Heck, I don’t know!

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2 thoughts on “To my shame, I confess

  1. The disregard of highly profitable companies for the people who sew the clothes that a lot of them sell at high prices is scandalous. The abuses that occur in the garment industry is well known and no company can say that it is unaware of what goes on or distance itself by saying that it is the responsibility or problem of the contractor. However, the real culprit is the indifference of the buying public. I wager that if we started to lobby these businesses for change, then action would be taken.

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