Mensch & Verantwortung
The goal is clear, the common path must be renegotiated again and again

International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Sector

It is certainly a reason for Tchibo to celebrate: for the third time, international garment brands and the global trade union federations have been able to agree on an extension of the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Sector. This time even for a period of 6 years - longer than ever before.

For Tchibo, this is a special reason to be happy, as the development of the International Accord and our work are closely intertwined. Why is that? Back in 2012, before the ACCORD was founded, we had already worked with the union partners on an agreement that focused on fire and building safety in the factories in Bangladesh.  Our due diligence analyses at that time had shown us ady that we were not in a position to effectively implement fire and building safety in the factories, where we produced in Bangladesh, as a single company.  Unfortunately, however, it took the Rana Plaza disaster to trigger the official founding of the Accord in 2013.

Workers at Accord-covered Factory | Source: International Accord Secretariat

Even today, we are still convinced that we need a joint, systemic approach to make the garment and textile industry safer in the long term, which is why we are delighted that the Accord is continuing its work. What the negotiations have also shown is that even though the Accord has now been in force for over 10 years, it is not a self-runner. It has to be constantly adapted and negotiated, as the challenges have changed over the years.

But what does that mean in detail? What changes does the Accord bring and what can companies expect? There are essentially three changes compared to the previous agreement: Firstly, the administrative structure will be adapted to meet the current needs. As the Accord was extended to Pakistan at the beginning of this year, there will be an overarching international structure under which the so-called Country-Specific Safety Programmes (CSSPs) will be organised. There is now a separate structure for Bangladesh and one for Pakistan.  Secondly, criteria for extending the work of the international agreement to other countries have been specified:  Feasibility studies, safety risks, initial inspections are some of the criteria to be used to check whether the Accord can also be active in other countries.  

Safety Training Program | Source: International Accord Secretariat

Another discussion that the agreement has taken up is the question of which issues should be dealt with by the complaints body and which should not. In Bangladesh, the independent national organisation RMG Sustainability Council (RCS) currently handles complaints from workers regarding building and workplace safety. However, most of the complaints received by the RSC are related to other human rights violations (such as wages and dismissals) and now the way has been paved to discuss whether the RSC should also handle these complaints - this would be a great help for companies. How this will work in practice has yet to be discussed.

Accord Complaint Mechanism | Source: International Accord Secretariat

The Accord is an important signal not only to our production countries that we are taking responsibility, but above all to the workers in our factories. They are represented in the Accord through their representative organisations and they still have the opportunity to file complaints. Not only in Bangladesh, but also in Pakistan from 2024 and, with the new Accord, in other countries in the future.

The Accord is a successful example of companies working together r to foster systemic change. We hope that we can follow this path for other challenges with the same commitment, as the challenges in the supply chains continue to be enormous, as we have seen, for example, in the discussion about higher minimum wages in Bangladesh.

Tchibo is ready to take this path.