The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry was agreed upon in August 2021, with many brands signing on in support of the two-year, life-saving agreement that prioritizes the safety of garment workers within the brands’ supply chains. The program is a successor of the Bangladesh Accord, which was initially established in 2013 in response to the collapse of Rana Plaza, as well as other factory disasters that, in total, have resulted in thousands of injuries and more than 1,000 deaths. Simply put, the International Accord provides for fire, electrical, and structural inspections and makes inspection reports and time-bound corrective action plans available to the public. Brands who sign the agreement pledge to sever ties with any factories that refuse to make the necessary repairs and renovations to the buildings.
However, while many brands have joined the International Accord, there are still dozens of brands manufacturing in Bangladesh that have yet to sign on to this critically important agreement. Because of this, Remake is continuing to track brands who have not signed the International Accord, and we will continue to do so until these companies decide to step up and put the lives and safety of garment workers above profit.
As for the more than 155 brands who have signed on — we applaud them.
Safety has always been a concern for garment workers in global supply chains. The majority of garment workers are women, and many are the sole earners for their families. The International Accord provides basic safety protections for two million garment workers across the 1,300 Bangladesh factories of participating brands and an opportunity to expand the program to other countries.
To help the public better understand what the Accord means, what it promises, why it’s so important, and how consumers can help encourage more brands to sign, Remake has compiled this list of frequently asked questions on the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry.
What does the Accord actually do?
The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry is a legally-binding agreement between apparel brands and trade unions to make garment factories safe.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, founded in May 2013, was the first modern legally-binding safety agreement between workers, factory managers, and apparel companies that required brands and retailers to:
- Open their supplier factories to fully independent inspections by qualified experts and engineers
- Allow the results of these inspections to be reported publicly, in a searchable database
- Help pay for essential safety renovations
- Stop doing business with any factories that fail to make needed safety repairs
Additionally, the Accord outlines a complaint mechanism by which workers can anonymously report potential violations at their factory to the Accord. It also includes an enforcement mechanism by which legal action can be brought against non-compliant signatories.
The International Accord came into effect on September 1, 2021, as the successor agreement to the Bangladesh Accord. It maintains the vital elements of the Bangladesh Accord, and there are three ways in which the program will now expand: it covers a broader array of health and safety issues, it extends to factories in the textile sector, and, within the next two years, it will expand to at least one additional country.
Is the Accord going to make a difference, and how is it better than what previously existed?
According to the Worker Rights Consortium, an NGO witness signatory to the Accord:
“Prior to the Accord, practically no export garment factory in Bangladesh had a functioning emergency exit. Indeed, the Accord’s engineers found that across the 1,600 factories they inspected, most of which are located in multi-story buildings, that there were virtually zero fire exits. Most factories had collapsible metal gates on each floor, which don’t do anything to prevent smoke from engulfing an entire floor. Even worse, many of these gates were typically locked, causing workers to be trapped inside during fires. A crucial result of the Accord’s inspections is that now these have been replaced with fire-proof doors that swing outward so that workers won’t be trapped.
The Accord’s inspections have uncovered close to 130,000 safety violations, ranging from structural damage to unsafe fire escape routes. To date, the vast majority of these safety hazards have been eliminated. Very few workers have died in Accord-covered factories since the Accord was founded. The Accord has very likely saved hundreds of lives.”
Which brands can join?
All apparel and/or textile brands and retailers can join. Particularly those brands and retailers that are sourcing apparel or textiles from Bangladesh, or from a country that the Accord is likely to expand to, such as Pakistan, are encouraged to join.
How do brands sign the Accord?
Brands that want to commit to the safety of the garment workers in their supply chain can sign the Accord by visiting https://internationalaccord.org/join.
Is there a deadline for brands to join?
The Accord agreement is in effect until October 31, 2023, and brands can sign up through this date.
How much does each brand pay to join the Accord?
Brands contribute on a sliding scale based on the number of factories and the volume of production that they have in Bangladesh. These membership dues, capped at $350,000 a year, cover inspections and trainings, as well as the complaint mechanisms and the cost of administration.
Are brands that have refused to sign free riding off the Accord?
A number of brands who have not joined the Accord are free riding off the work of the Accord by manufacturing in factories that have made substantial safety renovations as a result of the Accord program while supplying Accord signatory brands. An example of this free rider problem is the German brand Jack Wolfskin, which refused to sign the Accord, stating that they only source from Accord covered factories so they are “fine.”
What other countries will the Accord expand into? Is Pakistan a top-contender?
One of the requirements for brands who have signed onto the International Accord is the allowance for its expansion into at least one country by October 2023. Trade unions and labor rights organizations in Pakistan are actively advocating for the Accord to expand to Pakistan. For years, there has already been campaigning in Pakistan from labor groups demanding the Accord’s presence. However, until the International Accord completes its feasibility study and signatory brands agree, we can’t know for sure what the next country will be.
How involved are local unions versus global unions?
The International Accord is signed with the IndustriALL Global Union (which represents the voices of its affiliated unions in Bangladesh) and UNI Global Union. Already, for years prior to the formation of the Accord, garment workers and their local unions in Bangladesh had drawn attention to the widespread safety hazards in the industry and the growing death toll among garment workers due to preventable safety incidents, calling on brands to sign such a binding agreement. On social media, you can find photos of demonstrations throughout the years by garment worker unions in Bangladesh urging brands to sign the Accord under the hashtags #SignTheAccord, #ProtectProgress, and #RanaPlazaNeverAgain.
What outreach efforts can consumers take to help ensure a favorite brand joins the Accord?
Consumers can take an active role in urging their favorite brands to join the Accord and protect the workers who make their clothes. Follow Remake’s Accord Brand Tracker and write to brands via Twitter or other social media accounts demanding they sign the Accord; or, if you’re interested in sending an email directly to brands’ inboxes, visit the Rana Plaza Never Again website.