University of Washington apparel licensees who source, produce or purchase merchandise in Bangladesh are now required to become signatories to The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The accord is an international industry response to safety issues in Bangladesh factories, including fires and building collapses over the past three years that have led to the deaths of thousands of Bangladeshi workers. Companies signing the accord pledge to contribute to a fund to pay for independent safety inspections and building repairs and renovations to maintain safety standards.
On the recommendation of its Advisory Committee on Trademarks and Licensing, a student, faculty, and staff committee charged with recommending policy for the manufacture of goods bearing the university’s registered trademarks and for monitoring company compliance with the university’s Code of Conduct, the UW Trademarks and Licensing office has engaged in ongoing communications with 21 of its apparel licensees who currently disclose production facilities in Bangladesh. Eight of these companies have already signed the accord.
The companies were told that they must sign the accord (or demonstrate adoption of an acceptable alternative plan with elements equal to those outlined in the accord) by the end of March or have their licenses to manufacture UW goods suspended.
The committee is currently reviewing the licensees’ responses and will notify noncompliant licensees of their suspension on April 21. At the time future licenses are issued or current licenses are renewed, the university will verify compliance with the requirements surrounding production in Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is one of the largest exporters of apparel into the United States,” reports Mary Kay Gugerty, professor in the Evans School of Public Affairs and chair of the Advisory Committee on Trademarks and Licensing. “We recognize the importance of the apparel production industry in Bangladesh and do not want UW licensees to pull production from the country. We are simply requiring our licensees only to do what is necessary to uphold the UW Code of Conduct to which they contractually agreed.”
In its letter to companies, the UW advised: “As a University of Washington licensee, you have contractually agreed to abide by all elements of the UW Code of Conduct. This code includes provisions related to both health and safety and freedom of association. Based on reports of the labor situation in Bangladesh, it appears that these and other code provisions are not being met in many Bangladesh factories. To be clear, we are not asking you to remove work from these factories, but rather to take action to improve the conditions in factories you own and/or with whom you contract in Bangladesh.”