Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The True Cost Of Fast Fashion In Bangladesh

Terrible news has emerged from Bangladesh, as over 100 workers are killed in a fire in a clothing factory.

The fire, which claimed the lives of 110 workers at the Tazreen Fashion plant, 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Dhaka, had trapped the full 1000-strong workforce in the burning building. Many were forced to jump from upper floors to escape the blaze. The blaze led to huge street protests, and calls for the prosecution of the factory owners for criminal negligence. A national day of mourning has been announced as the bodies of 59 workers, burnt beyond recognition, are being prepared for burial at a government mass grave in the southern suburbs of the city.

Disturbingly, a second fire at a factory on the outskirts of Dhaka broke out on Monday, trapping workers on the roof of the 12-storey building as firefighters fought to tame the blaze.

The garment industry is the mainstay of the Bangladeshi economy, with overseas exports topping $19billion. That's 80% of national exports. Clearly, Bangladesh will continue to welcome foreign garment manufacturers into the country. But the cost in human suffering at the factories that produce these goods has set that financial windfall into stark relief this week. It's clear that hard questions will need to be asked. The problem is that it's unlikely they will be asked of the multinationals who demand the cheapest possible price for their goods. Until the focus changes, tragedies like the fires in Bangladesh are sadly unlikely to be rare occurrences.


A statement was released last night from WRAP, following rumours that the Tazreen Fashion plant and its parent company had been WRAP-certified.

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, USA - This weekend's deadly fire at the Tazreen Fashions Limited factory in Bangladesh was a tragedy of the highest magnitude. All of us at WRAP extend our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones in the fire and pray for a speedy recovery to those who were injured.
WRAP continues to see itself as a stakeholder in the Bangladesh garment industry and we are committed to being a responsive and effective supply chain management partner that helps factories independently verify that they are doing their work in a safe, ethical and socially responsible manner. In the furtherance of that mission, we also aim to be an education resource for factories, especially in the arena of safety. Our comprehensive Factory Fire Safety Training Program, offered regularly in Bangladesh, is leading the way in this field by providing training not only on fire response but fire prevention.
As media coverage of this tragedy has unfolded, we have come across occasional references suggesting that Tazreen Fashion may have been WRAP certified. We would like to clarify that this is completely untrue. The Tazreen Fashions Limited factory is not, and has never been, certified by WRAP, nor has WRAP ever even conducted an audit in that facility. We have also come across information suggesting that the factory's parent company - the Tuba Group - is WRAP certified. That, too, is untrue; WRAP certifications can only be given to individual production units, and not to groups or parent organizations. At present, there are no factories from the Tuba Group that are WRAP certified. As such, any claims by or about the ownership group or any individual factory within it with regards to being WRAP certified are false.
This tragic fire at Tazreen is a disastrous reminder of how vitally important this issue is. No loss of life is ever acceptable within the garment industry. Through certification and education, WRAP remains dedicated to its mission of promoting safe, lawful, humane, and ethical manufacturing around the world.

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