Apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers should sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a collection of Canadian investors has urged.

In a joint letter, the businesses – with combined assets worth CAD44bn (US$42.5bn) – urged the companies to sign the accord (so far signed by only one Canadian retailer), and to participate fully in its implementation.

“Immediate steps” should be taken to prevent future tragedies similar to the Rana Plaza building collapse, the letter said.

“Apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers have an important role to play by adopting responsible sourcing practices in global supply chains, including performing human rights due diligence, negotiating commercial terms with suppliers sufficient to provide for safe, healthy workplaces and a living wage, establishing robust oversight of their suppliers, and disclosing information on supply chain practices and outcomes,” it added.

“The Rana Plaza disaster and the worldwide reaction that followed amply illustrates not only the importance of adhering to international standards that safeguard the lives and human rights of workers throughout a company’s supply chain, but also the considerable reputational, operational and legal risks to companies that fail to address these issues.

“Change will only occur when companies take action together.”

Canada’s imports from Bangladesh have almost doubled in the last five years, and the country is now the second largest source of apparel imports into Canada, after China.