Last year, policy took center stage in the clothing industry, with the call for binding promises through legislative change and contractual agreements between workers unions and fashion brands.
One policy in particular shined on a national and an international level: The International Accord for Health and Safety the Textile and Garment Industry.
History of the Accord & Its Extension
The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, or “The Accord” for short, is a legally binding agreement between fashion brands and garment maker trade unions. The goal of this agreement is creating safe and healthy work environments for garment workers, a population that is extremely vulnerable and often overlooked.
Since its creation, the Accord has extended protections to over two million garment makers, and improved the safety of 1,600 factories.
It stands as a successor to the Bangladesh Accord, which was created as a direct response to the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013, where 1,134 individuals were killed and 2,500 were wounded when a Bangladesh garment factory caved in and collapsed on them. Later investigations found that the factory was “built on unsuitable land, construction rules were flouted, corners were cut in procuring building materials, and officials took bribes to look the other way,” according to Transparency International — making the tragedy all the more devastating, as it could have been prevented.
As of February this year, 190 brands and retailers have committed to creating a more ethical apparel manufacturing industry by signing the two-year Accord extension. Since its creation, the Accord has extended protections to over two million garment makers, and improved the safety of 1,600 factories. The current Accord extension also includes worker well-being and health, as is reflected in its title (Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry).
Previously, the factory inspections that have occurred as a result of the Accord and have largely minimized safety violations and ensured safe working environments for garment makers (ultimately leading to the countless saving of lives) have been limited to those factories operating in Bangladesh. However, with the Accord’s renewal in 2021 also came the promise for the agreement to expand into another country.
Expansion into Pakistan
Last year’s momentum around the Accord has carried it into an early victory for ethical fashion this year: the International Accord has expanded into Pakistan.
Top brands, like Boohoo, that house 70 supply chains in Pakistan will now have to ensure they are adhering to practices set by the policy.
The Accord’s expansion into Pakistan is a landmark victory for Pakistani workers and garment makers globally, as there is a present and urgent need for safer working environments for this vulnerable population. A year before the Rana Plaza tragedy, 250 individuals lost their lives in the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan. Then and now, workplace safety is urgently needed, especially in the areas of fire prevention and building safety, sexual harassment, gender-based violence and excessive working hours. The Pakistan Accord will extend protections and uplift the voices of many garment workers, just as the Bangladesh Accord continues to do.
Of the current brand signatories, a staggering 110 of them source in Pakistan. Several well-known brands, including H&M, Bestseller, Zara (Inditex), C&A, and Calvin Klein (PVH) have reaffirmed their commitment to the new Accord, leading the way in ethical action amongst many of their counterparts.
The Accord’s expansion into Pakistan is a major win for garment makers and the fashion industry as a whole. The expansion will require brands that have already signed the Accord to follow suit with worker protections in their additional supply and manufacturing chains in Pakistan. Top brands, like Boohoo, that house 70 supply chains in Pakistan will now have to ensure that the Pakistani factories they source from are adhering to practices set by the life-changing policy. Similarly, for brands like Missguided, with 28 supply chains in Pakistan, and Primark, with 22.
Although the playing field of brands and international supply chains can feel out of reach, consumers can play a large role in propelling policy agreements like the Accord forward. In fact, the collective use of #ranaplazaneveragainn and #signtheaccord by the public on Instagram and Twitter no doubt caught the eye of many of the big name brands that eventually ended up signing on to support the Accord.
Though 190 brands have signed onto the Accord, there are still plenty more that operate in Bangladesh and Pakistan who have not. Soon, ethical fashion enthusiasts will be able to follow Remake’s International Accord Tracker, where they can keep up to date on fashion brands that have signed the Accord, and those that have not.
Furthermore, consumers can urge their favorite brands to sign the Accord by writing them via Twitter, Instagram, and e-mail through our International Accord Campaign Page, which we will keep up-to-date with the latest public calls to action.
If brands know that its customers care about the Accord and the protections it extends to garment makers, they will be forced to follow suit. As they say, the customer is always right.