by Eda Güçlü
The Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed shops, a bank, and garment factories, collapsed on the 24th of April 2013. The upper four floors were illegally constructed on an already weak structure that had been initially designed for shops and offices. The garment factories, which employed around 5000 workers, produced clothes for major international brands including Gucci, Prada, Benetton, Versace, Mango, and others. The heavy weight of the machinery and the vibration it generated in these factories overwhelmed the strength of the columns, and it resulted in what trade unions called “mass industrial homicide.” The death toll was 1134, and the number of the injured was around 2500 people. Such an extent of loss and suffering captured international attention on the lack of safety measures in the garment industry in Bangladesh. It also underlined the concerns for the risks created by the complex and unregulated outsourcing models across global supply chains, which exploit cheap labor and insufficient health and environmental regulations in less developed countries.
The Rana Plaza collapse gave a stimulus and wider legitimacy to political campaigns and global movements that had started earlier advocating an international legal framework to put an end to corporate impunity and make parent companies responsible for the consequences of their subcontractors’ operations along their supply chains. The campaign of several civil society organizations which had begun before the presidential elections in 2012 in France was one of these efforts.1 The French campaign was organized by a coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International France, Sherpa, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, ActionAid France-Peuples Solidaire, Amis de la Terre France, and Collectif Éthique sur l’étiquette. Their struggle came to fruition in 2017 when the French Parliament finally promulgated the “Corporate Duty of Vigilance” law (loi relative au devoir de vigilance des sociétés mères et des entreprises donneuses d’ordre). Olivier Petitjean, a journalist who wrote a book on the law, considers it “atypical legislation”, because it was initiated by a coalition of NGOs with the support of a group of deputies whose support they secured before the elections. In that sense, it is an example of “citizens’ initiative legislation.”The French “Corporate Duty of Vigilance” Law: An Example of Bottom-up Vigilance? weiterlesen
- For other examples of similar campaigns, see https://lieferkettengesetz.de/; No Courage to Commit: Comments of German non-governmental organisations on the German government’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (Revised version, 6 February 2017): https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/publication/17767.pdf; Huib Huyse, Boris Verbrugge, Belgium and the Sustainable Supply Chain Agenda: Leader or Laggard? Review of Human Rights Due Diligence Initiatives in the Netherlands, Germany, France, and EU, and Implications for Policy Work by Belgian Civil Society (KU Leuven HIVA Research Institute for Work and Society, 2018): https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/report-assesses-compares-human-rights-due-diligence-initiatives-in-3-eu-countries-with-belgium%E2%80%99s-agenda-for-sustainable-supply-chains. [↩]