Lessons Not Learned in Bangladesh

The NY Times reports that even after the horrible deaths of over 1,100 workers at the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh two months ago, the local garment industry continues to work in unsafe conditions. Writing from Dhaka, Jim Yardley reports that bureaucratic confusion and lack of sufficient pressure from client firms has allowed many equally risky factories to continue to operate.

Al-Hamra Garment Factory, Bangladesh. Source: NT Times
Al-Hamra Garment Factory, Bangladesh. Source: NT Times


As Yardley notes:

“…two months after the collapse, the inspections process is disorganized and haphazard, with unclear lines of authority. The Ministry of Textiles is overseeing some inspections. An industry trade group is organizing others. The local development authority in Dhaka is involved, and the country’s top engineering school is playing a central role. Some global brands have also sent inspection teams.       

The situation at Al-Hamra Garments underscores the confusion. On Saturday, after a reporter for The New York Times visited the ground floor of the factory and began making inquiries, factory officials and the building’s owner initially defended the decision to remain open. But late that night, company officials reversed course. The next morning, they closed the factory.”

So it takes a visit from the NY Times for the owners of Al-Hamra to change course and suddenly discover that their facility is unsafe? This is an example not just of the local confusion, but also of the lack of leadership on the part of the brands that sent business to places like Al-Hamra. At this point, there are no excuses left (not that there were any before Rana either to be honest), and it makes neither economic nor social sense to keep sending work to a place that cannot meet the most basic risk management requirements.

It seems that what happened at Rana could happen again. If it does, this is a failure not just of the Bangladesh business community but of the risk management teams in the brands that have not used the horror of Rana Plaza to push this global manufacturing hub to improve.

Carlos Alvarenga

Founder and CEO at KatalystNet and Adjunct Professor in the Logistics, Business and Public Policy Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert E. Smith School of Business.

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