When a Picture Says a Thousand Words: Bangladesh
As many of us enjoyed the leftovers of the Thanksgiving feast this past Saturday and Sunday, families on the other side of the globe had a much different—and devastating—kind of weekend. As flames subsided from a garment factory blaze outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the images of the damage began to surface. All told, more than 100 people died in a tragedy that most likely could have been prevented had there been sufficient emergency exits.
Unfortunately, fires in offshore manufacturing facilities are not as unusual as you might think. There have been numerous fires in Bangladesh since 2006 with more than 300 killed, according to this story in the Washington Post. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story, as they reflect what the government has reported from deaths in the fires without accounting for those who died later or in other ways while trying to escape. The real number tops 500, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign, an Amsterdam-based anti-sweatshop advocacy group, as reported in this article in the New York Times.
In September, a fire ravaged a textile factory complex in Karachi, Pakistan, killing nearly 300 who were trapped behind locked doors. And this was just hours after another fire at a shoe factory in nearby Lahore took the lives of 25 more, as the New York Times reported in this article.
As these events attest, potentially innocuous management decisions—such as placing evacuation stairs on the inside rather than outside of a building or locking doors to deter theft—can, and do, have unintended consequences.
It only takes a single image to undo even the most successful campaigns in the eyes of your customers—and many of them will never forget what they’ve seen in the news. Headlines from Bangladesh and Pakistan only underscore why social accountability audits remain the primary inspection requested and, in many cases, required by end-buyers.