3 Years On from Rana Plaza – Prioritising Real Action over Corporate Greenwash

This week marks the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and a 7-day global event to clean up the fast fashion industry that puts so many lives at risk.

Fashion Revolution Day has become Fashion Revolution Week – incorporating several large-scale initiatives to prevent such a disaster ever happening again. 

The Reason Behind Fashion Revolution Week

On 24th April 2013, a building collapsed. A building that was built on a reclaimed swamp. A building that had no legal permits. A building that was designed to be six storeys tall, but was eight – with a ninth under construction. A building that was ordered to be shut down the previous day due to concerns about its safety. A total of 1,134 workers lost their lives, 2,500 were seriously injured and 800 children were orphaned. The building was the cause of the deadliest garment factory accident in history.

In an industry wearing such scars, we would hope to see our global supply chains in a state of utopia: retailers having a clear grasp on their value chains, with confidence in the conditions in which their products are produced, and in the hands through which they have passed from production to purchase. But is this the case?

Many high street brands are facing up to the shocking realities of a high demand supply chain, acknowledging they can no longer be afraid of the truth and are seeking greater transparency, and are working collaboratively with suppliers to relieve the pressure put on them to deliver high volumes – ultimately working conditions and labour rights will improve.

How Are Things Different Now?

In the wider reality, there has been some movement, albeit slow. Brands are still making huge profits and the real cost of fashion is still being passed onto those that make our clothes, some earning less than £1.50 per day, many in conditions that are putting their safety, health, and even their lives at risk.

It has taken three years but finally there has been some justice for those who were injured and killed, with a number of globally recognised brands, all with links to the Rana Plaza factories, eventually providing adequate payments into the Rana Plaza Donors Fund, which delivers full and fair compensation to the 5,000 individuals with eligible claims. It was an unprecedented step by the industry – and despite frustrations at how long this has taken, perhaps we should be positive that it has at all.

A Collective Force to be Reckoned With

Fashion Revolution Week is now an annual event to mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy. It was, and will continue to be, a day to commemorate but also to celebrate. Fashion Revolution Week brings together consumers, designers, large brands, and the media to start the beginning of an industry-wide transformation. Collectively, we can be a force for good to generate something positive out of such a sickening, avoidable tragedy. 

As Carry Somers, The Founder of Fashion Revolution, says: “The aim of the transparency ranking is to benchmark fashion brands on their supply chain transparency and to encourage the adoption of best practice.” Responsible Trade Worldwide is a prominent initiative in this drive to address transparency and sustainability, not just in the fashion industry but global commerce as a whole.

We are seeking to pave the way to a transparent, socially ethical, and environmentally sustainable future of the fashion industry with our RTW Assessment.

Don’t Forget Consumer Power

Of course we are also consumers. Wearing that hat, we also have a huge part to play. Consumers have the power to make a noise and change industry through our buying choices. This is why it’s essential that we’re all aware of the real story behind our products. A great NPR article on rethinking your waist size over ‘waste size’ introduces lots of practical ways we as consumers can make a difference.