It was in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy that global brands introduced Accord and Alliance – representing two different sets of retailers – in the Bangladesh RMG sector. The move was as much to ensure safe and secure manufacturing units that they source from as it was to maintain their reputation in the global arena as responsible corporate entities, which valued human lives more than anything else.
A lot of water has flowed down the bridge since. After spending years together carrying out remediation of supplier factories, Alliance called it a day, while Accord has approached the judiciary hoping to stay put, citing the so-called unpreparedness of the local entity to carry forward and supervise its pending work.
Accord’s opinion as to the aptitude and expertise of local remediation has raised a question on Bangladesh’s ability to stitch together an efficient remediation entity that can carry forward the good work of Accord and Alliance while being acceptable to all. After all, foreign entities cannot continue to operate forever.
It was just a matter of time before Bangladesh would prove the apprehensions wrong! Nirapon, a new self-regulating platform, has emerged very strong recently to take over from Alliance the overseeing of building inspection and remediation of its listed factories in the country.
Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, a prominent Architect of Bangladesh, and Chairman of Nirapon board, reportedly announced the formal launching of the platform recently.
“I am proud to announce the inauguration of a brand-initiated, locally oriented organisation, ‘Nirapon, whose mission is to strengthen the safety achievements that Bangladeshi RMG industry has reached so far,” stated Jamilur, adding, “…it will use a brand-led approach of safety monitoring, oversight and reporting services for our subscribed members based on the laws of Bangladesh to help member factories build their own self-sustaining culture of safety.”
Nirapon’s role would, however, be slightly different from Alliance. Alliance worked directly with factories to drive remediation and training programmes while Nirapon’s role would be of oversight and independent verification of safety and training compliance and to report these results to members.
Speaking to media on Nirapon’s activities, Moushumi M. Khan, its CEO reportedly underlined that Nirapon was created as a common platform by global RMG brands for whom Bangladesh is an important sourcing destination to sustain and build on the past six years’ remarkable safety achievements.
“As of today, there are 21 member brands and over 600 factories under Nirapon,” said Moushumi adding, “Nirapon builds on the achievements of Alliance’s successful remediation efforts and our goal of worker safety remains the same. However, the Nirapon model is fundamentally different.”
As per reports, all the Nirapon-member brand factories would be required to continue to meet the National Action Plan-harmonised standards for physical safety of structural, fire and electrical components.
The member factories will perform routine maintenance and safety training, and continue to work with a proven effective helpline. The factories will provide regular updates, including documentary evidence, to the brands and to Nirapon, and work with vetted local training and engineering firms which will conduct regular safety and training audits.
Nirapon will provide oversight and quality assurance on the work of the factories, and their engineering and training consultants. The brands will work with the factories to assist them in addressing any problems that may arise.
“In this transition to help build a more locally sustainable safety culture, Nirapon will vet, test and train local engineering and training service providers, who will be selected and retained by factories themselves, to give independent assessments of a factory’s compliance to build safety and Nirapon processes,” Moushumi emphasised.