FASHION VICTIMS

Another fatal fire at a clothing factory in Bangladesh has highlighted that changes still need to be made to ensure fast fashion does not claim more fashion victims.

The 9 workers who were killed are believed to have been working overtime at the factory in Gazipur, near Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. The fire broke out late on Tuesday night when many workers had gone home.

The factory where yesterday’s fire broke out was not included in the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord that was created after the Rana Plaza tragedy. However its sister factory, the place that firms allegedly make direct orders to, was.

This highlights a key issue. Surely clothing companies should know every factory that their clothes are made in?

The new safety accord does not on the whole cover factories throughout the whole clothes making process. It is instead focused on the places where the fabric is sewn and clothes are made.

However many companies do not enforce its terms. While some will make regular checks in the factories where the final product is made, these audits do not always happen further down the supply chain. Companies may not know where the fabric is dyed or made. They are even less likely to monitor the conditions where the cotton is picked. Only 7% of brands polled by Baptist World Aid in their Australian Fashion Report knew the source of their raw materials.

It is near impossible to be confident in where your clothes actually come from until standards extend throughout the entire supply chain. And this supply chain goes from the cotton farms of Uzbekistan or China to your wardrobe.

Leading British retailers such as Next, ASDA and Gap have said this fire could prompt a deeper look into every step of the production process. 

They have highlighted that there is a need for the Bangladeshi government to look into all parts of the supply chain.

However a key issue is the Bangladeshi government’s health and safety rules and how they are applied. Change happens slowly and there is widespread corruption as many factory owners skirt around the health and safety standards they are instructed to meet. This was highlighted on Panorama a few weeks ago. This showed how two books were kept; one with the expected hours and the other with the real hours.

There needs to be a change. Both consumers and companies have a responsibility to acknowledge that the ‘fast fashion’ culture is placing cost and speed of production over health and safety.

We as consumers need to examine the demands we place on companies. Rather than demand cheap clothes why don’t we demand a fair wage for the factory worker who made them? And safe working conditions for the people who picked the cotton? 

Companies need to examine their supply chains and auditing processes to ensure workers are paid a living wage and have safe working conditions. And they need to do this soon. Before another tragedy claims the lives of more fashion victims.

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