Around nine in the morning on April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza, an 8-story building in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed catastrophically in a hail of twisted concrete, steel, and sewing machinery. At the time, more than three thousand garment workers were on duty in five separate factories, located on the building’s third to eighth floors. 1,134 workers, most of them young women, were killed, and more than 2,500 others were injured, many seriously.
It was the worst industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry. Several dozen U.S. and European retailers and brands—including Walmart, Benetton, H&M, the Gap, Inditex, and Loblaw—were at the time or had recently sourced products from one of the Rana Plaza garment factories. In the wake of the collapse, these companies and others that had contracted production to suppliers in the low-wage, fast-growing, and notoriously unsafe Bangladeshi garment industry faced an urgent challenge: What should they do now, after Rana Plaza? This case enables students to explore the causes of and responsibility for the collapse of Rana Plaza and to evaluate various courses of action for Western apparel companies doing business in Bangladesh.
- Who was responsible for the collapse of Rana Plaza, and why do you think so? In your answer, please address the responsibility, if any, of the building owner, factory owners, Bangladeshi government, U.S. and European governments, Bangladeshi workers and their advocates, clothing customers, and apparel retailers and brands in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
- What could be taken now to reduce the chances of a similar tragedy occurring in the future? In your answer, please consider what actions, if any, the various individuals and groups mentioned in Question 1 could take.
- Of the various options you mentioned in response to Question 2, which do you think is most likely to be effective, and why?
- Develop a typology of corporate strategies to prevent worker abuse by contractors in complex supply chains (e.g., put political pressure on local governments to develop stronger regulations; develop codes of conduct).
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