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June 13, 2015
Two Years After Tragedy, Fund for Rana Plaza Victims Meets Goal
    by Robert Kropp

Pressure from members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility helps further corporate responsibility in the remediation of human rights violations.


On April 24, 2013, a building with five garment factories in it collapsed in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,100 workers. Most of the major clothing retailers in developed nations source clothing they sell from factories in Bangladesh.

Lest one think of the deaths as simply a tragic accident, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights reports that when the workers—mostly young women, working as many as 100 hours a week—notified the factory owners of dangerous cracks in the factory walls, “The owner, Sohel Rana, brought paid gang members to beat the women and men workers, hitting them with sticks to force them to go into the factory. Managers of the five factories housed in Rana Plaza also told the frightened workers, telling them that if they did not return to work, there would be no money to pay them for the month of April, which meant that there would be no food for them and their children.”

Two important initiatives arose in the aftermath of the tragedy. The
Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a legally binding agreement that commits corporate signatories to the financing and implementation of a program of safety inspections, transparency and reporting, and remediation. And the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has, through March of this year, inspected every factory producing garments for its corporate members, and “brought 19 immediate risk cases to the Bangladesh government-established review panel.” Five of the factories cited have been closed completely.

For the thousands of garment workers who suffered injuries and psychological trauma due to the building collapse, the
Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund was established in January, 2014, with the goal of raising at least $30 million. Institutional investors aligned with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility's Bangladesh Investor Initiative, representing some $3.1 trillion in assets under management, have called on corporations to fulfill their responsibilities by joining the two initiatives and contributing to the Fund.

“Remediation is one of the three major pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and a clear corporate responsibility where human rights have been violated,” David Schilling, ICCR's senior program director, said.

More than two years since the tragedy, the efforts of the sustainable investors have finally resulted in the Fund reaching its goal of $30 million. As many as 5,000 claimants are expected to receive awards from the Fund, ICCR reports.

“As faith-based investors, we feel the responsibility to redress human rights and workplace violations like those that occurred so tragically two years ago in Bangladesh most acutely,” ICCR Chair Rev. Seamus Finn said. “We are satisfied that, through the Rana Plaza Trust Fund, a measure of justice has been rendered to victims and their families.”

“We applaud those companies that made significant contributions to the Fund and will continue to work with all the apparel brands and retailers we own to implement the necessary safeguards that will ensure these tragedies won’t reoccur in the future,” Schilling added.

 

 
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