image: Zara

image: Zara

Three years after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, which claimed the lives of more than 1,100 factory workers, significant problems remain in mass market retailers’ supply chains, per experts and activists. While many mainstream fashion retailers have publicly stated that the tragedy has prompted them to protect workers, progress has been slow. 

“You have about 200 brands working together, and there’s definitely more transparency, more attention to the issue of human rights in the global supply chain,” Sarah Labowitz, co-director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at the NYU Stern School of Business in New York, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “But in addressing fire safety, building safety, workers’ protection – there aren’t enough practical discussions around these issues, not enough financing. So not enough has changed,” said Labowitz, who wrote a report on the aftermath of the disaster, published in December.

In the Rana Plaza disaster, one of the worst ever industrial accidents, 1,135 people were killed when an eight-story building housing five garment factories supplying global brands suddenly collapsed. The collapse of the complex, built on swampy ground outside the capital Dhaka, sparked demands for greater safety in the world’s second-largest exporter of readymade garments and put pressure on companies buying clothing from Bangladesh to act.