190 global investors write to PM Sheikh Hasina for Accord

BDApparelNews Desk
15 February 2019  

A worker working in a readymade garments industry of Bangladesh.

A worker working in a readymade garments industry of Bangladesh.

A group of 190 global investors have written to Bangladesh authorities urging for an end to the standing stalemate with Bangladesh Accord over its extension in the country.

The investors, representing over US$3 trillion in assets, urged the government not to abandon Accord until local agencies are fully capable of continuing its work to ensure the safety of the over 1,600 factories, they said in a separate statement issued.

In their letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the investors asked her to:

1.    Send a strong signal of support for allowing the Accord to continue to operate in Bangladesh without placing restrictions that would hinder its ability to implement its program independently, to identify safety hazards, publicly disclose them and compel factories to remediate.

2.    Provide sufficient time for a transition period to enable the development of your government’s Remediation and Coordination Cell (RCC) in order to build capacity to regulate workplace safety.

The statement is in direct response to the Government’s submission to the Supreme Court regarding the Accord’s appeal against an order that it cease operating in Bangladesh from November 30, 2018.

The Government has stated that the Accord should only be allowed to continue operations under a set of highly restrictive constraints that include prohibiting Accord inspectors from identifying any new safety violations in the factories, they said in the statement.

“The Accord is an excellent example of human rights due diligence that addresses systemic fire and safety concerns in the garment sector and safeguards the lives of workers,” said David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which led the group of investors.

“While the expectation has always been that the government would eventually assume this responsibility, it does not yet have the full capacity necessary to do this without the Accord’s help. For this reason, we are appealing to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to exercise patience and to keep the Accord in place until such time as it can safely pass its mantle to the Bangladeshi government,” said Schiling.

“Over the past 5 years, the Accord has accomplished detailed, comprehensive inspections and remediation of issues that has made the garment sector safer for workers as a result,” said Rev. Seamus Finn, of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

“The Accord’s success sends a positive signal to investors that safety risks are being carefully and sustainably managed. However, more needs to be done and we urge Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, to signal strong support for the continuance of the Accord until the Government’s Remediation and Coordination Cell builds its capacity to guarantee the safety of workers in the garment sector.”

Said Faryda Lindeman of NN Investment Partners, headquartered in the Netherlands, said: “Investors have carefully followed the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh since the Rana Plaza building collapse of 2013. We are concerned that ending the work of the Accord would increase the risk for Accord signatory companies to continue to source from unsafe factories lacking a credible and effective regulatory system.”

“Labour rights issues in the apparel industry are complex and require collaboration between several stakeholders,” observed Mans Carlsson-Sweeney of Ausbil Investment Management Limited. “In our view, the multi-stakeholder format of the Accord is crucial for continued improvement of labour conditions. Investors prefer stable earnings and investing in resilient companies but termination of the Accord could increase the risk of supply chain disruption, which could impact brand companies in a number of ways, including brand damage and earnings volatility.”