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Investors Call on Fashion Brands to Join Worker Safety Initiative Ahead of Rana Plaza Anniversary

The call ratchets up pressure on brands like Levi Strauss & Co, Urban Outfitters-owner URBN and Walmart, which have been called out by labour rights campaigners for refusing to join the agreement.
A garment worker sits at a sewing machine in a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
A garment worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Ahmed Salahuddin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

More than 190 investors representing $1.3 trillion in assets under management urged fashion brands to join the International Accord, a legally binding worker safety agreement, in a joint statement Thursday.

The call ratchets up pressure on brands like Levi Strauss & Co, Urban Outfitters-owner URBN and Walmart, which have been called out by labour rights campaigners for refusing to join the agreement.

The statement comes days ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, a deadly factory collapse that killed more than 1,000 garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the aftermath of the disaster more than 200 brands signed onto the International Accord’s Bangladesh-focused precursor, a binding safety commitment that established ground-breaking levels of accountability and transparency.

The initiative is widely viewed as the fashion industry’s most successful safety campaign, spurring efforts to expand its reach beyond Bangladesh with the launch of the International Accord in 2021. Late last year, it announced plans to establish a programme in Pakistan, but so far only 45 brands have signed on.

Investors have urged companies sourcing in both Bangladesh and Pakistan to join the international and Pakistan-focused agreements, a sign of the ways in which appetite for ethical investing and mounting regulatory scrutiny are influencing shareholder engagement.

Levi’s said it has invested in its own safety programmes, which offer the company more agility to expand focus and implement new learnings. URBN and Walmart did not respond to requests for comment.

”In the current policy environment, companies are increasingly required to show how they effectively implement human rights due diligence to address salient human rights issues across their operations and value chains,” said Matthias Narr, international head of engagement at Swiss pension fund group Ethos. “If not already a signatory, the best way to ensure due diligence on health and safety issues is to join the International Accord and the Pakistan Accord.”

The investor coalition said its signatories would engage with brands in their portfolios to encourage them to join the initiatives.

Learn more:

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