Some of the world's biggest clothing retailers have agreed to pay for factory improvements and monitor safety in the Bangladesh garment industry after the collapse of a crowded factory late last month killed over 1,100 people.
Not all of the retailers involved in the agreement purchased directly from the suppliers involved in the deadly collapse, but they all benefit from the often unsafe working conditions that keep labor costs low in the second-largest exporter of garments in the world. The agreement, fostered by the International Labor Organization and drafted by labor unions in Bangladesh, is now backed by H&M, Inditex, PVH Corp, and Tesco and Primark, among others. Notably, the GAP and Wal-Mart have not yet signed the accord, though they've been involved in talks, as Reuters reports.
While the momentum for the agreement could have, in part, come from a Wednesday deadline set by workers' rights groups in the country, it looks like most of the retailers decided to jump on board only after H&M, the largest clothing buyer in Bangladesh, agreed to go through with it on Monday. For their parts, PVH and German retailer Tchibo already signed the agreement last year.
The agreement, which is legally binding, more or less requires retailers to financially support some pretty basic safety provisions, and to allow workers to organize. It's designed to put pressure on the suppliers who run the factories. As the Associated Press explains, the pact is a revised version of a failed agreement drafted two years ago by labor groups, which, at the time, was rejected by most of the clothing companies who bought from the country. Apparently, the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh's history was enough to get the companies to change their minds.