Clothing brands involved in the garment industry in Bangladesh have reacted in different ways to the recent building collapse that killed many hundreds of people.
Some denied they authorised work at the factories in question, even when there was potential evidence to the contrary. Others swiftly acknowledged their links and promised compensation. Both responses were part of a considered PR strategy designed to either distance themselves from the disaster, or to appear honest and responsible and address the issue head on.
But is either approach enough? Is it sufficient for brands to say they simply had no involvement in this particular instance, with no acknowledgement of the wider issues concerning conditions for workers? Are some brands counting on the short memory of many consumers in the West, who value price above everything else, particularly during times of austerity? Both are risky strategies as even brands that weren’t directly involved in the most recent disaster may be tarnished by virtue of having their goods manufactured in Bangladesh. They too need to be seen to recognise that measures need to be implemented to safeguard workers and to take action. Vague promises are no longer enough, and whilst there are signs that some companies are starting to take action, it needs to go beyond buildings and fire safety and address how workers are treated in general. But it may not be until consumers say enough is enough and start avoiding brands that manufacture in the region, or until consumers show a willingness to pay more for garments, that such changes will really pick up pace.