Corporate watchdog calls out Gap, lauds H&M, Zara

European apparel retailer H&M and Inditex, parent company of fashion retailer Zara, are signing on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, an independent, legally-binding agreement to guarantee safe working conditions in the Bangladeshi garment industry. 

H&M is a top purchaser of garments from Bangladesh, and hopes that the agreement leads to “far-reaching improvements in working conditions.” 

Global corporate accountability watchdog SumOfUs.org has praised the companies for” doing the right thing.” The organization has set its sights on Gap, the second largest purchaser of Bangladeshi apparel, stating that it hopes the retailer will follow H&M’s and Inditex’s lead and sign the agreement as well.

“Now that H&M and Zara are leading the way on workers’ safety, we can only hope that Gap and other brands follow their competitors’ lead” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kaufman, executive director of SumOfUs.org. “Only legally binding programs that are accountable to workers themselves can guarantee that the clothes we buy aren’t being made in death traps. Consumers around the world have made it clear that they care about workers’ safety, and we hope that Gap listens now that several of its top competitors have signed on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement.”

The agreement, which was launched by global labor federations IndustriALL and UNI and apparel companies Tchibo and PVH (owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein), requires brands to invest in key safety measures like fire escapes and submit to independent monitoring that includes input from workers themselves. Gap has so far refused to join the agreement, arguing that its own safety program is enough. But corporate codes of conduct have failed to improve safety in the Bangladeshi garment industry for 20 years because brands are not accountable for their failures.

More than 1,800 garment workers have died in Bangladesh preventable factory disasters since 2006, and consumer pressure for brands to take action has intensified in the wake of the devastating Tazreen fire in November and the Rana Plaza building collapse in late April. 

SumOfUs.org is a global movement of consumers, investors and workers from around the world, who together hold corporations accountable for their actions and aim to forge a new, sustainable and just path for the global economy.