All for Reform, Unless It Costs Them Money

Following the collapse of a textile factory in Bangladesh in 2013  German fashion companies created and agreed to follow a code of conduct to prevent future disasters. 

Now that these protocols are starting to have an effect, they are bailing out of the program as fast as they can:

When a factory collapse in Bangladesh claimed the lives of hundreds of textile workers in 2013, German retailers were quick to express the need to improve working conditions in Asian sweatshops. But five years on it seems they’re much less keen to actually do anything about it.

An alliance of retailers formed in 2014 with the aim of tackling the problem is crumbling fast. In 2016, there were nearly 200 members; now it is 130. This year alone, 25 retailers either quit or were thrown out for not honoring their commitments to report on improvements made in their supply chain.

There’s a simple reason why companies are jumping ship. Talk is cheap, and the alliance is now trying to move from words to action.

Previously, members showed to what extent they met their goals in the previous year and formulated new ones. Now, they are expected to publish these so-called roadmaps in August, opening them to independent auditors who will scrutinize the submitted documents and ask tough questions. For the first time, the retailers will be measured by their achievements.

But now the alliance’s management team would consider it a success if just 30 companies published their plans.

As I have noted before, “Self-regulation is to regulation as self-importance is to importance.”

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