One Year Later, Here's Every Company That Hasn't Paid the Bangladesh Factory Victims
A pair of workers, one's face highlighted by the light coming through the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, are pinned between pieces of cement. Dust and debris cover their skin and add to their lifelessness. Pieces of fabric are strewn around them, commissioned by the companies that they and hundreds more lost their lives for.
The now iconic image of the two workers, entitled "Embrace," lent humanity to the headlines surrounding last year's massive building collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people.
As survivors and bodies were pulled from the wreckage, international brands like Mango, Joe Fresh and Primark were named in relation to the factories housed in the building. Consumers were shocked to realize the shirts on their backs were linked to the oversights that tragically ended so many lives.
While the death toll continued to mount, it became clear that the tragedy would impact thousands of families in Bangladesh, and that large corporations would have to take responsibility for their part in the negligence that lead to the collapse.
But one year later, survivors of the disaster are still struggling, and international corporations have barely been impacted by the fallout. In fact, some of shareholders' prices for certain implicated companies rose just months after the collapse. So far, corporations' responses have been a patchwork of safety reviews and public statements with little bold effort done to right any wrongs and compensate losses. And consumers, in large part, have forgotten.
What for these companies was a brief PR disaster, is a daily trauma for those affected. Faced with loss of income, staggering medical costs and insufficient compensation, survivors and family members of those killed are running out of options.
In what is supposed to be a major group effort on the part of corporations associated with the Rana Plaza factories, victims are meant to be protected by at $40 million fund collected by the International Labour Organization. So far, less than half of that money has been donated. Most shocking of all is that, according to Human Rights Watch, 15 international retailers officially implicated in the collapse have not yet paid into the fund.
The full list of donors can be found on the fund's website. They include U.K. brand Primark, Swedish H&M Conscious Foundation, Spanish-owned Mango and American companies Wal-Mart, the Wal-Mart Foundation, Asda, Gap and The Children's Place. Mango and Primark labels were reportedly found in the building's wreckage last year. Suppliers for Wal-Mart had previously operated in the unsafe factory.
Though the fund made its first payment to victims this week, it's hard to see how it will be sustainable without substantial contribution from brands associated with the collapse.
Below are 14 brands that Human Rights Watch reached out to for an explanation as to why they didn't contribute to the fund. Some of the names may come as a surprise.
1. Ascena Retail (USA)
Ascena is the conglomerate behind popular American brands Maurices, Justice, DressBarn and Lane Bryant. DressBarn attempted to distance itself from the collapse, stating it hadn't purchased any merchandise from Rana Plaza since 2010.
2. JCPenney (USA)
After the collapse, the mid-level department store said they were unfamiliar with the sourcing of Joe Fresh apparel on their shelves. Joe Fresh labels were found in the devastation.
3. Carrefour (France)
The French "hypermarket" chain is ranked fourth in the world, behind Wal-Mart, Tesco and Costco. It has stores across Europe, South America, Asia and North Africa.
Brand representatives have previously said that they have "no commercial relations" with the brands operating in the collapsed plaza but were quick to sign on to safety accords after families of victims linked the company to their losses.
4. The Cato Corp. (USA)
The Cato Corp. is the retailer behind Cato, Cato Fashion, and Cato Plus. One of the chain's suppliers, New Wave Bottoms, had produced in the Bangladeshi factory, but the corporation says no production was underway there when the building collapsed.
5. Benetton (Italy)
The Benetton group is known for their primary clothing line, United Colors of Benetton. According to the brand's external relations wing, the company worked with a specific supplier in Rana Plaza called New Wave.
While Benetton hasn't paid into the ILO fund, they are supporting relief programs through BRAC that supply prosthetic limbs for survivors selected by the non-profit and Bangladesh's ministry of health, as well as skills training and seed money for 350 recipients. In a letter to Human Rights Watch, the brand representative said the discussions had to form the ILO fund were taking too long.
6. Adler Modemärkte (Germany)
Adler Modemärkte is the company behind Adler fashion retailers. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, it has admitted to doing business with factories in Rana Plaza.
7. Auchan (France)
Auchan is a French hypermarket chain that operates in France, the US, and China. Auchan has reportedly acknowledged that some of its retail was "“unofficially subcontracted”" to a factory in Rana Plaza.
8. Grabal Alok/Store Twenty One (U.K.)
Grabal Alok is the Indian company behind British retailer Store Twenty One, whose labels were reportedly found among the rubble of the Rana Plaza collapse. The corporation has been incredibly tight-lipped about their involvement.
9. Güldenpfennig (Germany)
Güldenpfennig can trace its merchandise back to Rana Plaza through distributor Ether Tex, which produced clothing in Bangladesh for low-cost German market retailers.
10. Kids for Fashion (Germany)
The company behind label Sons and Daughters has admitted to ordering through a Rana Plaza factory, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.
11. Matalan (UK)
Though it denied having merchandise produced in Rana Plaza, British fashion retailer Matalan signed on to a legally binding building safety agreement in 2013 that involves contributing up to $500,000 annually toward independent inspections of factories. The company has yet to contribute to the ILO fund, however.
12. NKD Deutschland GmbH (Germany)
German textile retailer NKD has over 2,000 shops across Europe. After the collapse, the company admitted it had previously manufactured goods in Rana Plaza but said it cut operations there in 2012 due to quality problems.
13. PWT (Texman) (Denmark)
PWT owns Texman, which in turn produces Danish men's fashion brands Shine, Bison, Lindbergh, Huzar, Jacks, Morgan and Oscar. According to the company, a contractor produced shirts in a Rana Plaza factory from 2010 until March 2013.
14. Yes Zee Essenza (Italy)
Essenza is behind the popular Italian brand Yes Zee and has admitted to sourcing from Rana Plaza, according to Italian news sources.