On April 24, 2013, in the suburbs of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Rana Plaza, an 8-story building housing 6 textile factories collapsed, causing the death of 1,138 workers and injuring more than 2,000 people. This tragedy is the largest industrial accident of our time. Many survivors were stuck under tons of rubble and machinery for hours, if not days, before they could be rescued, sometimes only by amputating limbs.
Bangladesh is a country of 125 million people whose economy relies heavily on the textile industry. This industry employs around 4 million people, 90% of which are women, and who earn only 95 USD per month to make clothes for global fashion brands.
Global outsourcing: (the main problem)
The capitalistic goal of Western brands is to sell clothing cheaply, in doing so they protect their comfortable margins. The way in which they do this is by outsourcing, which allows the brand autonomy around the supply chain involved in producing the garments.
What happens is this: Global brand A has a board of directors who is mainly concerned with quarterly reports and having the highest revenue possible. On the balance sheet, there are assets and liabilities.
If Global brand A had their own brick and mortar factory with payroll and charges to take care of themselves, it would be considered a liability on the balance sheet, drastically lowering the amount of revenue listed.
Therefore, they decide to cut production out of the equation all together, and outsource the work. Today, the cheapest labor can be found in developing countries, who depend on the income generated from industry.
Therefore, the governments of those developing countries do not set standardizations of work conditions, as they could make Global brand A decide to take their business to another country.
Global brand A now outsources 200,000 white t-shirts to be made by Factory A in Bangladesh. Factory A takes the job, knowing that they will not be able to complete it themselves. Global Brand A will not ask any questions until their final order is finished, so Factory A outsources 100,ooo t-shirts to Factory B, who accepts the job, knowing that they cannot complete it themselves.
Factory B then outsources 50,000 shirts to Factory C, and so on. That is how one order from H&M, or any other global brand, can be made by 10+ factories. Therefore, there is absolutely no way for the Global brand to have transparency into how their order was made.
The Rana Plaza factory collapse was the pinnacle of terror caused by this chain of global outsourcing without transparency, and ultimately caused thousands of people their lives to get the attention of a global audience.
No brands could take accountability for producing at Rana Plaza, because they themselves did not know. Garment labels from United Colors of Benetton, Mango, H&M, KiK, Primark, M&S, C&A, Walmart, Gap, and many more, were found in the rubble.
At a time when sustainable fashion is trendy and when consumers are increasingly concerned about the materials they wear and their ecological footprints, this tragic event reminds us that it is vital to turn to a fashion industry where ethics is the first step.
A fashion industry that respects human rights and where every employee benefits from decent and safe working conditions must be the minimum. How can we have sustainable fashion if the women and men creating it are not cared for in the process?
The idea to create SANNA Conscious Concept was conceived after I learned about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2017, and I knew that I did not want to participate in a supply chain that abused people and the planet, and I knew there were others like me as well.
This platform is dedicated to sharing the narratives behind authentically ethical brands from around the world, so that we can choose to support truly sustainable business models with our purchase power, hopefully bringing an end to the capitalistic fashion industry.