Or “Is This Time Different?”
Sadly, I don’t believe the various collaborative efforts now forming to resolve the issues that led to the Bangladesh disaster, will work. They never do. The myriad consortiums, NGO\’s, union organizations, associations and on and on, all attempting to organize their efforts, are already battling each other. And whichever of those that become formalized entities, each of their special interests will be in a constant state of conflicting goals, and the local payoffs and corruption will continue, while the truly high-minded signatories (those who have the real clout to make change), will be back in their comfortable offices. Yes, the designated “doers” of the “xyz” entities will fiddle around with change, but the “same old, same old” will continue. And no, just as in gun control, this time isn\’t different. And no, I’m not making a political statement.
In spirit I am certainly 100% supportive of the intentions of all of the organizations that have popped up so that these disasters will “never happen again.” However, in reality, I just don’t believe they can work. Like “mini” United Nations, the complexity of conflicting interests and goals will lead to sclerotic, dysfunctional and largely impotent bureaucracies paving the road to further disasters, all with good intentions.
And one would have good reason to believe that Walmart, Gap and others who are not signing on, possibly believe this as well, and are therefore developing their own programs to do what’s right. Or, in the case of some who already have programs in place, like Walmart, they will simply increase their efforts to identify partners with safe factories that also abide by humane working conditions. Accordingly, they will beef up their monitoring and enforcement processes and will hopefully spot disasters, or even minor infractions, before they happen.
So, as the epic and tumultuous worldwide reaction to Rana Plaza, and now Cambodia, plays out, with governments, associations, brands and retailers, all yammering with and against each other, I do predict several “camels” will be created by several committees. Therefore, my suggestion to all of the brands and retailers around the globe is that if you feel you must sign on to one of these camels — be my guest. However, make sure you are backing it up with your own program.
As I said in my previous blog, at the end of the day, it is your supply chain. You control it. Essentially you own it. And, you are the only entity in the whole rotten process that has the clout to correct it. How? You terminate the business, thus terminating the factory’s revenue stream, but simultaneously you may be saving a life, or at the very least, forcing improved working conditions.
Some are doing it right, and you know who you are. Many have not done anything about it, or at best deferred direct responsibility, and you know who you are.
And, in my opinion, those who totally defer direct responsibility for their supply chain to one of the currently forming groups, without their own “on the ground” program, will be at risk of their brand surfacing amid the rubble of the next disaster, which is inevitable.