The present-day textile and clothing industry is organised in complex global supply chains. Fashion is changing much more quickly and at ever shorter intervals. Competition in speed and price is increasing and the burden is often passed on to the bottom of the supply chain: the production workers in countries such as Bangladesh, India, China and Turkey, resulting in substandard working conditions in these countries. These labour conditions endanger safety, health, workers’ rights, gender issues and environment.
The world’s attention was first drawn to the gravity of this problem in 2012 when bad electrical installations caused a fire in the Tazreen garment factory in Bangladesh killing 112 workers. The next year, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building took more than 1100 lives of garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
These tragedies could have been prevented if due attention had been devoted to the safety of electrical installations, fire safety and sound construction.
The sense of urgency that the way clothing and textile is produced should change, is since wide-spread. Consumers demand fashion that was produced under sound, safe and fair conditions. Consumer awareness campaigns are organised; fair fashion labels introduced.
Politicians and labour unions have joined hands with fashion companies and garment producers to improve working conditions. In Bangladesh, the “Integrated National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity in the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh” (2013), the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” (2013) and the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety” (2013) were concluded. At the global level, the G7 and the International Labour Organization ILO committed themselves to concrete action to boost “labour rights, decent working conditions and environmental protection in global supply chains” (2015).
“The Rana Plaza disaster was a turning point. Many improvements have been effectuated since. Inspections have been carried out and factories have been remediated. But it is far from ready; there still is much to be done. I will follow the developments very closely and stay committed.” Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Lilianne Ploumen (2015)