In a statement to Just Style today (24 January), the Accord Steering Committee (SC) member brands – PVH Corp, H&M, Inditex, C&A and Bestseller – affirmed their commitment to the workplace safety programme in Pakistan, in close collaboration with their Pakistani suppliers and other stakeholders.
German e-commerce giant Otto Group was one of the earliest signatories, signing up last week, along with retailer Tchibo.
The Pakistan Accord on Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, which is a legally binding agreement between global union federations, UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union, and garment brands and retailers for an interim term of three years starting in 2023. Brands have been invited to sign from 16 January.
“The International Accord is preparing for continued engagement with Pakistani stakeholders in the coming weeks, as we take steps towards the establishment of a Pakistan Accord office and the commencement of programmes,” the Accord Steering Committee (SC) member brands said in their statement.
“We, together with our Accord brands’ colleagues, are committed to supporting our suppliers in meeting the highest safety standards. This includes efforts to establish local governance structures that ensure industry and local brand and union participation in decision-making in every phase of the programme.
“The International Accord aims to protect the health and safety of millions of workers while helping the industry achieve sustainable growth in exports. With the signing of the Pakistan Accord and our brands’ commitment to this new safety programme, we are renewing our commitment to a long-term sourcing relationship with Pakistan.
“The Pakistan Accord provides an opportunity both to increase the visibility of the efforts already made by many manufacturers to invest in fire and building safety measures in recent years and deepen and expand them throughout Pakistan’s garment and textile sector, making it an increasingly attractive option for buyers across the globe.
“We encourage all brands around the world to sign the Pakistan Accord agreement and join us in our collective commitment to raise the safety standards at supplier factories in Pakistan.”
The International Safety Accord announced it was extending its efforts into Pakistan in December after nine years of operating in the garment sector in Bangladesh. It sees signatories to the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry establish a comprehensive workplace health and safety programme in Pakistan covering signatories’ garment and textile suppliers.
Building on widespread safety improvements in Bangladesh, the Pakistan Accord includes all key International Accord features: independent safety inspections to address identified fire, electrical, structural and boiler hazards, monitoring and supporting remediation, a safety committee training and worker safety awareness programme, an independent complaints mechanism, a commitment to broad transparency, and local capacity-building to enhance a culture of health and safety in the industry.
In a statement last week, Professor Dr Tobias Wollermann, group vice president of corporate responsibility for Otto Group, said: “The collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh in 2013 marked a turning point for the global textile industry. The agreement, which subsequently became known as the ‘Bangladesh Accord’ and in which the Otto Group played a major role, has since improved labour and safety standards in the South Asian country enormously.
“When the Otto Group, together with many other international companies and global trade unions, agreed on a new agreement (International Accord) for occupational safety in the global textile and clothing industry in 2021, it was clear that other countries besides Bangladesh should also benefit from it.
“That is why I am delighted that we have signed the new Pakistan Accord today. The extension of the achievements that the Accord has achieved in Bangladesh for the safety of workers is a hopeful prospect for Pakistan.”
The successful experience in Bangladesh prompted the signatories to expand the workplace safety programme to at least one other textile and garment-producing country. Through signatory surveys, extensive research, and local stakeholder consultations, the Accord Secretariat assessed the feasibility of expanding based on key factors. Pakistan emerged as a priority country, in part because of its importance as a garment and textile sourcing country for the Accord brands.
The International Accord has undertaken extensive engagement in Pakistan with federal ministries and provincial governments, industry associations, suppliers, trade unions and civil society organisations.
The Pakistan Accord programmes will be implemented in phases, in close collaboration with these key stakeholders and through the establishment of a national governance body.
The Pakistan Accord covers Cut-Make-Trim (CMT) facilities, namely Ready-Made Garment (RMG), home textile, fabric and knit accessories suppliers (including vertically integrated facilities). Fabric mills within the supply chains of the signatories are also covered, with implementation scheduled for a later stage in the program. The programme aims to incrementally cover more than 500 factories producing for more than 100 Accord signatory companies throughout the Sindh and Punjab provinces, where most of Pakistan’s US$20bn in garment and textile exports are manufactured annually.
All current signatories of the International Accord which are sourcing from Pakistan are expected to also sign the Pakistan Accord.
The decision to expand to Pakistan was announced during a signatory brand caucus meeting held on 14 December 2022.