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April 24, 2015

Rana Plaza’s Lasting Impact

The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory two years ago today continues to shape our understanding of how our decisions as companies, consumers, and stakeholders are interconnected. In part because of tragedies like Rana Plaza responsibility and transparency are squarely on the corporate agenda.

Legislative requirements on the local, state, and national level are reinforcing the need for companies to engage these issues. Laws, such as the California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act require large companies that do business in the state to disclose the efforts they are making, if any, to eradicate modern-day slavery from their supply chains. Last week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris published guidance to help companies comply with this first-of-its-kind law. Other legislatures have implemented similar requirements, such as US Executive Order 13627, which places requirements on federal contractors on their use of labor brokers, and the Modern Slavery Bill in the UK which requires companies to disclose how they are managing and preventing these types of abuses. While each of these regulations is substantively different, and affects a different number of companies, collectively they speak loud and clear. It’s time for the private sector to think about what changes are necessary to prevent future Rana Plazas.

While seemingly intractable, labor abuses continue to affect millions, such as those making electronics in Malaysia, harvesting palm in Indonesia, or fishing for seafood in Thailand. Companies are increasingly seen as a part of the solution. As we learn more about these issues, our actions to prevent them should be renewed. Complex problems that cause these types of tragedies cannot be solved overnight. Companies that engage to find solutions with stakeholders or work to prevent abuses with suppliers can have a lasting and significant impact on these issues. Our actions of today cannot right the wrongs of Rana Plaza, but they can prevent future families from unnecessary suffering and loss.

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