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Uniqlo Owner Signs Pakistan Accord

Fast Retailing is on board with the Pakistan Accord.

The Uniqlo parent on Tuesday announced that it has signed the expansion of the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Garment Industry, which succeeded the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in 2021 with a broader purview. The Japanese conglomerate is also a member of the International Accord, as well as a signatory of the original Bangladesh Accord

“Much like the International Accord on which [it is] based, we believe the Pakistan Accord will also deliver important safety standards to help protect the people who make our clothes,” said Yukihiro Nitta, Fast Retailing’s group executive officer responsible for sustainability. “Fast Retailing is pleased to support the Pakistan Accord and to continue making workplaces safer.”

More than 50 brands have now signed the Pakistan Accord, which officially debuted in January. While it maps closely to its predecessor, which arose out of the deadly 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza, it will cover fabric mills in addition to ready-made garment factories. The key elements of the legally binding agreement include independent inspections and remediation of fire, electrical, structural and boiler hazards; safety committee and safety awareness training; transparency in reporting; an independent worker complaints mechanism; respect for freedom of association as it relates to worker safety; and joint capacity building with the Pakistani government. Signatories must also ensure that improvements are financially feasible for suppliers through monetary assistance or additional business.

The Pakistan Accord will run for an initial period of three years, with the possibility of renewal afterward.

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Fast Retailing’s announcement arrived one day after the Bangladesh Accord toasted its 10th anniversary on May 15. The agreement was inked just three weeks after the disaster in Savar killed 1,134 workers and injured thousands more, creating a watershed moment for an industry used to operating with little supply chain visibility and even less accountability.

Together with the RMG Sustainability Council, which took over the Accord’s office and operations in Dhaka in 2020, the initiative has conducted nearly 56,000 inspections at more than 2,400 garment factories in Bangladesh. Of the 170,000 health and safety issues they’ve identified, 140,000 have been corrected through measures such as fire alarm and sprinkler installations and electrical systems repairs.

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 workers have made use of the complaint mechanism, resulting in health and safety improvements, disciplinary actions against offenders, payment of full severance benefits, provision of maternity benefits, reduction of excessive working hours and reinstatements of unfairly dismissed workers, the Accord said.

“Since the Accord’s inception, its signatories and partners have contributed to the continuous and sustained remediation of health and safety risks at garment and textile factories in Bangladesh,” said Joris Oldenziel, executive director at the International Accord.

“Recognizing that more remains to be done and against the backdrop of increasing human rights due diligence legislation, we look forward to a decade of greater collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to strengthen safety standards, support capacity building, and foster an environment of accountability and transparency in the textile and garment industry,” he added.

Other brands that recently signed the Pakistan Accord include Hugo Boss and Mango.

Earlier this month, members of the Accord Steering Committee, including Bestseller, C&A, H&M Group, Zara owner Inditex, Otto Group and Calvin Klein parent PVH Corp., urged more brands to “sign the Pakistan Accord and join us in our collective commitment to raise safety standards at supplier factories in Pakistan.”

Fashion advocacy group Remake recently concluded a week of protests against what it calls the “Dirty Dozen” of brands that have signed neither the Pakistan Accord nor the original one, including Amazon, JCPenney, Ikea, Wrangler owner Kontoor Brands, Levi Strauss, Target and Walmart. A spokesperson for Levi’s said the denim maker has already made its stance on the subject clear, while Amazon said it’s committed to ensuring that its products are made in a way that “respects human rights and the environment” as laid out in its supply chain standards, though it didn’t provide data that could back that up when asked. The other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

“What the ‘Dirty Dozen’ have in common is that they have a significant presence in Pakistan as well as an overlap of factories in Bangladesh,” Ayesha Barenblat, the organization’s founder and CEO, told Sourcing Journal. “We see the concerns from unions…we know that private schemes and voluntary programs don’t work. We’re up against shrinking wages, inflationary pressures, a very difficult economic and political picture and now, more than ever, what we’re needing is this dialogue that really centers workers’ voices.”