Best&Less does U-turn on deal to sign garment worker accord


Best&Less has done a U-turn on its commitment to sign an international Accord on worker safety on the anniversary of a factory collapse that crushed 1,138 garment workers.

Today is the 11th anniversary of the disaster.

In May 2023, following the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, Best&Less told ActionAid Australia of its intention to join other Aussie brands like Big W, Kmart, and Cotton On in signing the Accord.

But late last year it became apparent Best&Less had lost motivation to sign the Accord.

As of February 2024 Best&Less was still sourcing from two factories in Bangladesh, Sayam Knit and Knit Horizon, which are not Accord approved.

These factories have structural issues. It was structural issues which led to the collapse of the eight storey Rana Plaza building crushing over 1,000 people.

Best&Less sources from 26 factories in Bangladesh, only 12 of which are Accord approved. The safety status of the remaining 12 factories is unknown, but Sayam Knit and Knit Horizon have been inspected and deemed unsafe by the Accord.

In failing to sign the Accord Best&Less is freeloading off other Aussie brands who source clothing from some of the same factories and therefore pay to keep these factories safe for the women who work there.

While Best&Less says it has its own system of safety auditing, it’s worth noting the Rana Plaza building had passed a safety inspection shortly before collapsing. Only the Accord is a truly independent auditing system with no conflict of interest.

It is well documented garment workers observed cracks in the Rana Plaza building before it collapsed and reported these obvious structural problems to management.

“We are incredibly disappointed Best&Less is walking back on its intention to sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry,” said Ms Farah Kabir, Country Director, ActionAid Bangladesh.

“I’ve seen first-hand how basic safety measures like smoke alarms and making sure fire exits are clear in factories saves the lives of women garment workers making clothes that Australians wear.

“If all Australian clothing retailers signed up to the Accord, it would support a system that secures the safety of all garment workers in factories in Bangladesh. This would create a level playing field and no retailer would get an advantage by sourcing cheaper garments from unsafe factories.

“Best&Less needs to do the right thing and sign the Accord for workers so Australian shoppers can be assured the clothes they are buying aren’t putting workers’ lives at risk,” said Ms Kabir.

ActionAid Australia Executive Director Michelle Higelin says it’s very disappointing Best&Less have reneged on signing the accord.

“In the days following the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, Best&Less informed ActionAid it planned to become a signatory of the lifesaving International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry,” said Ms Higelin.

We are disappointed that almost a year later, Best&Less is not following through and putting the lives of women garment workers in Bangladesh at risk.

“Best&Less’ most up-to-date factory list from February 2024 shows that there are two factories in its supply chain that have been deemed ‘ineligible’ by the International Accord because of repeated failures to fix safety violations. The Accord deemed these factories unsafe and requires members to not source from them. By refusing to sign the Accord and continuing to use these factories, Best&Less is putting the lives of its women garment workers at risk.

“Best&Less said it won’t sign the Accord because it already conducts third party audits of their factories. But research by labour rights organisations like the Clean Clothes Campaign has shown that industry-led social auditing systems have significant flaws and often fail the very workers they claim to protect. The Accord is a robust mechanism proven to save workers’ lives because it requires independent inspections and has a system for safety issues to be resolved, which includes brands helping to pay for them.

“On the 11th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, it’s poignant to recall that Rana Plaza itself had been subject to multiple third-party audits – with one even stating the building was of “good construction quality”.

“If Best&Less truly value the health and safety of the workers in its supply chain, it should be willing to take the same step other major Australian brands have already taken and sign the Accord.

“Other Australian brands like Big W, Cotton On, and Kmart use the same factories as Best&Less, and they are paying for safety improvements as part of their Accord obligations. Effectively, by failing to sign the Accord Best&Less are benefiting from these safety repairs and freeriding off their competitors.

“Last year over 70,000 people called on Best&Less to step up and show their commitment to their workers’ safety by signing on to the Accord.

“Whether or not big clothing brands care about their workers’ welfare, it’s clear Australians do. If Best&Less want Australians to have confidence in their supply chain, they must commit to the Accord. Time and again, we see it’s women working in these factories who wear the cost of companies like Best&Less cutting corners. It’s time for that to stop,” said Ms Higelin.

/Public Release.