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Bangladesh Alliance and Accord in Discord Over Factory Inspections

While the end goal for organizations like The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is to improve labor conditions in the low wage nation’s ready made garment industry, coming into accord with a factory inspection policy has been challenging.

The Bangladesh government, factory owners and brands have sought to avoid duplicating inspections at facilities producing goods for both Accord and Alliance signatory brands (roughly 15 percent of all Accord factories), but the Accord said in a statement last week that it would not accept inspection reports produced under the direction of Alliance brands.

The Accord said out of respect for the concerns regarding duplication that it endeavored to find ways to avoid it without compromising the integrity of its program. According to the statement, “Toward this end, the Accord scheduled its factory inspections so as to place the joint factories at the end of the process, in hope that a resolution would by then have been achieved. However, since the Alliance has inspected the joint factories, the Accord can only avoid duplication by seeking a way to give consideration to the Alliance inspection reports.”

Alliance inspections can be divided into two categories: inspections done by firms hired directly by the Alliance and inspections done by firms hired by Alliance brands.

Because the Accord requires inspections to be carried out independently of individual brands, by persons acting under the direction of the Accord’s Chief Safety Inspector, any inspections completed by or on behalf of Alliance brands fails to meet this requirement. “Additionally, there is no obligation under the Alliance program for brands to provide financial support for remediation to factories that need it. Consideration of these Alliance inspections by the Accord requires a policy that addresses these concerns,” the Accord statement noted.

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As result, the Accord said it would not consider inspections completed under the guidance of Alliance brands, but said it would accept reports done by firms working for the Alliance staff.

The Accord will accept the Alliance’s inspection reports only if they meet the following qualifications:

?       All corrective action plans must meet the approval of the Accord’s Chief Safety Inspector;

?       The Accord program will be fully carried out, including follow up inspections during the remediation process, which will allow Accord engineers to address any and all shortcomings of the Alliance inspections;

?       All Accord obligations will remain in full effect for Accord brands, including remediation financing, regardless of whether Alliance brands accept these obligations.

“This approach will address concerns that have been expressed by stakeholders about duplicate inspections, while ensuring that Accord safety standards are being met and an acceptable level of life safety is achieved in all factories producing for Accord brands.  The Accord Steering Committee agrees that the independence and integrity of the overall Accord inspection program is maintained through this approach,” the statement noted.

Accord signatories include apparel companies like Inditex, H&M and Fast Retailing, while Alliance members include Gap, Macy’s and VF Corporation.