Thursday, 24 April 2014

Lest We Forget

Today marks a year since the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  365 short days ago, thousands of us around the world paused for a moment and assessed our own contribution to this tragedy.  1,133 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters were killed, and another 2,500 injured in the worst industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry.  It was a day that opened countless eyes to the injustices of fast and disturbingly cheap fashion.  Many vowed to change their ways, promising to purchase more sustainably and support companies who produce more ethically. The photographs stuck in our minds and the stories filled our headlines…for 3 days…and then we moved on.

When something of this magnitude occurs and gets some media attention, fingers begin pointing wildly in all sorts of directions.  The blame game was in full swing post-Rana Plaza, which is understandable.  If we can make someone accountable, there can be some form of compensation.  The flaw in this attitude is that it absolves us of any responsibility for either the hurt, or the healing.  

I agree wholeheartedly that it is easier if the situation and solution are someone else’s problem.  The issue is that they are not.  
o   The factory owners were blamed for forcing workers back into Rana Plaza following a report that the building was unsafe the day prior.  
o   The builders were blamed for producing a substandard structure, taking shortcuts in order to gain maximum profit for minimum investment.  
o   The government was blamed for failing to enforce tighter laws and regulations around garment factory production practices.  

This wind vane of accusation swung wildly under the changing pressure of increasing evidence.  Meanwhile we, with equal culpability, returned to our addiction to cheap fashion, forgetting our vows to these families.

I've heard and read many excuses by way of explanation.  However, I am yet to hear a decent rebuttal to the sad reality that our demand for cheaper, faster fashion forced those people back into that building on April 24, 2013.  Our willingness to indulge in ignorant and selfish consumption cost thousands of families suffering and grief and continues to do so.

So shall we now wallow in self-condemnation?  I don’t believe so.  
Feel angry.  Feel convicted.  Feel challenged. 
Learn from these mistakes and become part of the solution.

Solution starters:
o   Do some research. Stop before you shop and do a quick google search into which companies are more ethical in their production practices. (It’s important to support the good guys. Do not just boycott all Bangladeshi garment producers. Knee jerk reactions won’t help those families).
o   If information on a company’s production practices is difficult to find, email them asking them to provide details.
o   Sign up to a website such as or and sign some petitions around worker rights.
o   Tell companies why you don’t shop with them. If we simply remove our support, they will up their marketing and lower their prices to suck us back in. They need communication via email or even instore about why they have lost our custom.

Ultimately we must remember the true costs of the garments we consider purchasing, 
because a year ago the connection between this cost…

...and this cost…

...became undeniable.