In a groundbreaking move, fashion brands, retailers, and trade unions have agreed to extend the International Accord on Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry for an unprecedented six-year term, marking their longest commitment to date. The legally binding agreement’s secretariat, based in Amsterdam, made the announcement on Monday, revealing that this renewed commitment comes on the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, a pivotal event in the industry’s history.
The International Accord, which succeeded the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh on September 1, 2021, has just completed its initial 26-month term, demonstrating its effectiveness in enhancing workplace health and safety. Even its predecessor, the original Bangladesh Accord, had an initial run of five years. This new agreement not only continues its mission in Bangladesh but also extends its reach to Pakistan, marking its first expansion beyond Bangladesh.
Key elements of this renewed International Accord include a potential expansion of the worker complaints mechanism, going beyond health and safety concerns, outlining signatory obligations and principles for country-specific safety programs, and requiring participating brands to sign both the International Accord and the relevant country-specific safety framework programs.
The International Accord had approximately 200 signatories, including major players like H&M Group and Inditex, and companies will need to re-sign the renewed Accord and the Bangladesh agreement to reaffirm their commitment. The secretariat will announce the initial signatories to both agreements in the first week of December, and brands sourcing from Pakistan are encouraged to join the Pakistan Accord, which runs concurrently.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, emphasized the longevity and effectiveness of the Accord’s model of supply chain regulation through legally binding agreements between brands and global unions, asserting that it has “staying power” and expressing high ambitions for the expansion of the program to other countries by 2025.
Atle Høie, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, echoed these sentiments and highlighted the Accord’s substantial scope for development, with an emphasis on fundamental principles and workers’ rights. The Accord has played a pivotal role in making the garment industry safer, and its long-term commitment sets the stage for further progress in the industry’s safety standards.
While many prominent brands have supported alternative safety initiatives, such as Nirapon, it remains to be seen whether more American brands will embrace the International Accord’s renewed commitment, marking a significant step forward in ensuring the safety of garment workers worldwide.