©Ira CHAPLAIN/SINOPIX-REA

When an 8-storey building in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh crumbled in 2013, over a thousand garment workers died. For those of us who buy fast fashion, it confirmed something we suspected: that many of the people who make the clothes we wear are, at the least, badly exploited, if not treated as slave labour. They work in fire traps. They receive death threats when they try to organise a trade union. They work long hours without a break so that factories can make their deadline. 

Kris Pannecoucke/PANOS REA

Doing business in conflict areas is challenging for everyone, whether you are talking about mining or even brewing beer. 

©Serprix

There are 45.8 million slaves in the world today according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, nearly four times the total number of Africans sold in the Americas during the four centuries of the transatlantic slave trade

Special to Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct, 26-27 June 2014

On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a commercial building and garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, claiming some 1,130 lives and injuring thousands more. The shock was felt globally. How could this happen? Who was to blame? If the building was not fit for purpose, why was it being used? How could such a disaster be prevented from happening again?

Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.  

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, killing over a thousand workers, was not just a human tragedy. The ready-made garments sector is hugely important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. This gives dealing with the Rana Plaza aftermath even greater importance. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

Economic data

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Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Aug 2018 annual
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Unemployment: 5.3% Aug 2018
Last update: 10 Oct 2018

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