A new body called the Readymade Sustainability Council (RSC) has recently taken control over the safety of Bangladeshi garment workers. The new authority is replacing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in order to reduce the risk of accidents and prevent death in the workplace.
Bangladesh is promoting a major campaign for workplace safety at the present time. It all started back in 2013 with the Dhaka garment factory collapse (also referred to as the Rana Plaza Accident), when an eight-story commercial building collapsed with a death toll of 1,134 factory workers – mostly young women. The accident triggered a strong international attention and urged European fashion brands which usually buy readymade garments from Bangladesh to take action. The product of this joint commitment is the Readymade Sustainability Council (RSC).
The RSC is an unprecedented national initiative: thanks to the synergy among the local fashion industry, internartional brands, and trade unions, the Council is ready to make Bangladesh a safer place for garment workers. Because of low wages, Bangladesh was able to build the world’s second-largest garment industry (right behind China), employing about 4 million workers. Thanks to trade relations between Bangladesh and Western countries, readymade garments constitute almost 16% of the country’s GDP, which amounts to about $34 billion. The recent agreements were signed by major Western brands (such as H&M and Benetton), which committed themselves to improve factory safety through inspections and project sponsorship.
Only a few months ago Dr Rubana Huq, PhD and former CEO, became the first female President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). Dr Huq has stated that ensuring the environmental and health standards of Bangladeshi fashion industry is a key goal, something that should be achieved especially through “the art of monitoring”. As far as foreign relations are concerned, Dr Huq stressed that it is essential for the RSC to be led jointly by the Bangladeshi government, garment workers, and Western brands.
Now, the Readymade Sustainability Council is facing three tasks of the utmost importance: monitoring fire, electrical and structural safety at all manufacturing plants; ensuring workers’ safety and health; and promoting environmental sustainability by enhancing pollution control and strenghten further climate action policies.