Editorial: Lessons to learn from Bangladesh

International clothing companies, while not directly liable, must bear a share of the responsibility for what happened at Rana Plaza and compensation is not enough

Share

With the death toll from the collapse of a factory building in Dhaka last month now topping 1,000, the incident has become the worst industrial disaster in South Asia since the Bhopal gas leak in 1984.

Primarily, the blame lies squarely with the owners at Rana Plaza. Not only were basic building regulations not observed, but cracks appearing in the walls of the building were ignored, as were the repeated warnings that it was unsafe. Worried workers were even allegedly threatened with the sack if they failed to turn up.

The Bangladeshi government is also culpable: for failing to enforce planning codes, of course, but also for the often shambolic rescue operation and for the rejection of assistance from the international community. More lives could, perhaps, have been saved.

Finally, international clothing companies, while not directly liable, must bear a share of the responsibility nonetheless. A number were buyers at Rana Plaza, and two of them – Primark and Canada’s Loblaw – were swift to offer compensation to victims and their families.

Compensation is not enough. And such measures as there are in place to ensure basic industrial good practice are clearly insufficient. Whatever the British high street’s appetite for cheap clothes, even the most price-conscious shoppers baulk at such appalling collateral cost.

Nor is the answer simply to pull out of low-cost markets such as Bangladesh. The involvement of Western companies can be a force for good – providing much-needed investment, jobs and, in theory at least, a prod towards better working conditions.

It is this last that must now be the priority. Sad to say, so many Bangladeshi politicians are linked to the $20bn-a-year garment industry that meaningful reform is unlikely to come unprompted. For the same reason, though, Western buyers have real leverage. They must use it.

That means not just paying closer attention to their suppliers’ conditions. It also means putting pressure on corrupt or inept governments to enforce regulations. Otherwise, there will be more Rana Plazas and more lives lost. A fractional rise in the cost of a T-shirt is a price worth paying.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would tackle our looming dementia crisis

Susan Greenfield
 

Letters: NHS data-sharing is good for patients

Independent Voices
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee