At the time of writing, the tragic events in Dhaka Bangladesh following the collapse of factory buildings, have caused the deaths of 920 people. It is reported that bodies continue to be found and that the final death toll may be significantly higher. These are events of a monumental scale.
Clothing retailers such as Primark and many companies who use these factories as part of their supply chain have been severely criticised about their involvement in perpetuating the appalling standards of working conditions by taking advantage of the cheap production facilities. We have seen demonstrations outside their flagship stores and claims are being made that if proper measures had been put in place by Primark, the disaster could have been avoided.
The knee-jerk reaction to apportion blame is a compelling one, however, we need to be very careful in apportioning total blame to them in this situation.
Primark have already taken the lead out of all the Western clothing manufacturers to recognise that their activities may have contributed and have committed substantial assistance. Immediately after the disaster, they partnered with a local NGO to address the immediate needs of victims including the provision of food aid to families. They are also committing to pay compensation to the victims of the disaster and have made open-ended commitments to continue to do so. They seem to be leading the way in accepting their liability and as such should be commended in doing so, unlike other companies who are in the same situation.
However, this does not get away from the facts. Primark were using cheap labour, working in appalling conditions. It should not be a surprise that the building should also be an appalling state of repair. They have a liability, but their leadership have recognised and acted on this.
What is more important is that we reflect on the main cause of this disaster – ourselves.
The constant demand for cheap fashion items seems to be insatiable. However, we seem to be able to turn a blind eye to how their produced, as long as they’re cheap. On a global basis, there are very few people at the moment the who can honestly say that they don’t own the garment made in the sweatshops. And worse, we all know the conditions under which they are produced. This also includes the demonstrators outside Primark offices, which is quite ironic.
We are all to blame!