Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Bangladesh Apparel Workers Still at Risk, Investors Say

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The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) issued the following press release on the occassion of the third anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The ICCR shares investors' concerns about corporate commitments to workplace remediation plans as implementation lags. 

The Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers are members of the ICCR, based in New York. Currently celebrating its 45th year, the ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. Its 300 member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and academic institutions representing combined assets of over $100 billion with a record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on corporate policies that further justice and sustainability. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to promote greater corporate accountability on questions such as climate change, corporate water stewardship, sustainable food production, human trafficking and slavery in global supply chains and increased access to both financial and health care services for communities in need.

"A group of global investors that has advocated for commitments from apparel brands and retailers sourcing from Bangladesh to remediate the workplace health and safety failures that cost over 1,100 people their lives at the Rana Plaza factory in 2013, today [April 21, 2016] released a statement voicing concern over delays in the implementation of remediation plans.

"The investor group, known as the Bangladesh Investor Initiative represents 139 institutional investors from North America and Europe with collective assets valued at over U.S. $3 trillion. In its statement, the group expresses concern over the pace of progress being made to remediate the issues identified by inspections conducted by both the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Worker Safety.  

"The Accord  on Fire and Building Safety has completed more than 1,600 factory inspections and the Alliance for Worker Safety has inspected about 650 factories, which has resulted in the identification of hundreds of corrective action plans, including the installation of fire doors and sprinkler systems and structural changes such as adequate safety exists. Of the over 1,350 corrective action plans that have been developed, more than 1,000 factories are behind schedule with remediation. Investors are urging companies to work with their suppliers to ensure full compliance with these critical remediation plans. 

"In addition, the investors are concerned that the “Safety Committees” so integral to systemic reform of the sector have not been established, and that workers are not able to elect their representatives to the committees.  According to the investors, this undermines the ability of the committees to independently identify and address threats to worker safety without interference from management.  

"David Schilling, ICCR Sr. Program Director for Human Rights and Resources said, 'In the aftermath of Rana Plaza, an unprecedented number of investors and companies coalesced around the urgent need to restructure the Bangladesh apparel sector to safeguard the lives of workers. Progress has been made on many fronts, but we are concerned that implementation of the identified actions is taking too long, and democratically elected worker representatives to safety committees have yet to be formed.'

"'While we commend the Accord, companies and others that have supported improved factory working conditions three years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, we are concerned about the lack of timely remediation. Through ICCR's Bangladesh Investor Initiative, we will continue to shine a light on the Bangladesh garment sector and needed steps to address systemic issues in apparel sourcing practices,' stated Lauren Compere, Managing Director, Boston Common Asset Management.

"Specifically, the Bangladesh Investor Initiative is calling on companies to:

  1. Commit sufficient financial resources and provide commercial terms that enable factories to complete remediation, and to report on the nature and amount of financial support.
  2. Use their leverage with factories where they source to create an environment conducive for the establishment of effective, proactive, independent Safety Committees.
  3. Publicly disclose their supplier factories and sub-contractors, starting in Bangladesh.

"Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors said, 'Global investors view supply chain risk as critical to the long-term sustainability of companies. The Bangladesh garment sector is a clear case where investors look to see if systemic changes are being made to address the glaring health and safety risks made tragically evident by the Rana Plaza building collapse.  Aviva Investors and other investors will continue to monitor corporate compliance with the core tenets of the Bangladesh Accord to ensure that changes happen in a timely manner, and that factory workers’ health and safety are protected in global supply chains.'

"Beyond their commitments through 2018 as part of the Accord and Alliance, the investors are requesting that companies continue to work with other stakeholders to support a living wage for garment workers and support free association and collective bargaining. The investors will be engaging relevant companies in their portfolios in the coming weeks to address these concerns."

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