Bangladesh is the second largest source of apparel imports into Canada, after China. Canadian imports from Bangladesh have almost doubled in the last five years. As Canadian investors and shareholder organizations representing combined assets under management of $44 billion, RRSE urges apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers to take immediate steps to prevent further tragedies.
Apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers have an important role to play by adopting responsible sourcing practices in global supply chains, including performing human rights due diligence, negotiating commercial terms with suppliers sufficient to provide for safe, healthy workplaces and a living wage, establishing robust oversight of their suppliers, and disclosing information on supply chain practices and outcomes.
The Rana Plaza disaster and the worldwide reaction that followed amply illustrates not only the importance of adhering to international standards that safeguard the lives and human rights of workers throughout a company’s supply chain, but also the considerable reputational, operational and legal risks to companies that fail to address these issues.
Companies can and should establish their own internal policies and practices to ensure respect for the fundamental human rights of workers in their supply chains, including health and safety, freedom of association and collective bargaining, and a living wage. However in certain cases, such as we have seen in Bangladesh, collective action is needed. Change will only occur when companies take action together.
Following the Rana Plaza disaster, a large number of global brands and retailers, including one Canadian retailer, signed a binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord sets out a program of independent and transparent inspections, an informed and active role for workers and trade unions, health and safety training for workers and management personnel, effective health and safety committees, and the right of workers to file complaints and to refuse unsafe work.
It is backed by time-bound remediation plans, effective dispute resolution procedures, and consequences for those that do not comply. The International Labour Organization is supporting the agreement and will play a role in its implementation, and it has been endorsed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. There is no other credible alternative to this agreement.
RRSE urges all apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers that source from Bangladesh to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and participate fully in its implementation.
As investors, RRSE recognizes its responsibility to promote positive change with the companies in its portfolios and to encourage them to put respect for human rights at the core of their business models. RRSE will engage with the companies in its portfolios so that together it can help to prevent further tragedies.
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