By Aimee Chanthadavong

Retailers are being urged to sign a Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety that will assure people who work in Bangladesh factories making clothing garments are working in safe conditions.

This push comes in light of new survey results by Oxfam Australia revealing 70 per cent of Australians would pay more for their clothes if they knew overseas workers were being paid a decent wage and the factories at safe working conditions.

The survey, which examined attitudes to Australian clothing retailers after more than 1100 Bangladesh garment workers died when their factory collapsed in April, revealed 84 per cent of consumers want Australian companies to sign onto an accord to improve safety at Bangladesh factories.

“I think we’re finding generally consumers are increasingly more conscious on where their products are being made and how they have being made. What we know from other work we’ve done consumers increasingly want greater transparency in how their food and garments are produced. Consumers want to have a say in what their values so I think this is a going trend,” Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke told RetailBiz.

Last Friday, Cotton On became the fourth Australian company to sign the Accord after enquiries with IndustriAll on the implementation of the agreement was completed, joining Kmart, Target and Forever New. The Accord will make independent reports on factory safety inspections public, allow workers to refuse dangerous work, ensure training for workers and that companies are covering building repair costs.

“We welcome the retailers who have signed the Accord,” Szoke said, urging other retailers to follow suit.

“We’re calling on all retailers to not only sign on the Accord and adopt the idea of publishing the names and locations of where their factories are in Bangladesh. Sporting retailers like Adidas, Nike and Puma have taken on this practice and it just provides an extra level of accountability on the ground so locals on the ground can provide feedback to the retailers have things aren’t set as clearly as conditioned.

The pressure is now mounting on retailers like Big W and Best Less to join the list of retailers to sign the Accord.

“We’re currently awaiting IndustriAll to complete enquiries and work with us on the implantation of it,” Big W spokesperson Benedict Brook said, pointing out Big W lodged its intention to sign the Accord back in early-June.

More than 50 companies around the world have already signed up to the Safety Accord.

“If iconic brands like Zara and Walmart can do it why can’t Australian retailers? I’m perplexed if it’s good enough for these retailers then this high level of transparency should be of interest to Australian retailers,” Szoke said.

“Frankly, if I was in the garment trade it would be a great competitive edge to demonstrate commitment to providing transparency to consumers.”