Georgetown will now require all trademark licensees that source, produce or purchase products in Bangladesh to abide by an international, legally binding agreement to help protect workers, the university announced Thursday.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety was founded in May 2013 following the collapse of the RanaPlaza factory in April 2013 in Savar and a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in November 2012 in Dhaka that led to the deaths of 1,129 and 112 workers, respectively. With more than 5,000 factories, the garment industry employs more than four million individuals — primarily women.
With more than 100 signatories from at least 20 countries to date, the accord has garnered the attention of the international human rights community, according to Georgetown Director of Business Policy and Planning Cal Watson.
“The accord is focused on Bangladesh because the safety crisis within the apparel industry there has been so severe. Two of the deadliest disasters in the history of the global apparel industry happened in Bangladesh in the last two years,” Watson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The accord requires apparel companies to submit to full, public inspections of the working conditions in their factories, ensure that factories undergo the renovations necessary to improve conditions and end business relationships with licensees that refuse to comply, according to a press release issued by the university Thursday. It does not provide for a living wage for factory workers.
The recommendation for the university to sign the Accord, signed by University President John J.DeGioia on Thursday, came from Georgetown’s Licensing Oversight Committee, a group of administrators, faculty and students that makes recommendations to the university regarding its relationship with collegiate products and apparel industry stakeholders.
To date, five other universities have signed on to the accord: New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Duke University and Pennsylvania State University.
Licensing Oversight Committee member Julia Hubbell (COL ’15) said the proposal was supported overwhelmingly by the LOC.
“As licensing work goes, the process was actually pretty easy. [The committee] spent some time discussing it — the committee really decided that there were very few reasons that Georgetown wouldn’t. They decided in an overwhelmingly positive way that Georgetown wanted to be part of this great movement for fire safety and general safety in Bangladesh,” Hubbell said.
Thus far, four Georgetown licensees have signed the accord including Knights Apparel, Russell Athletics, Top of the World and Zephyr. According to Hubbell, the university is working with the Collegiate Licensing Company which oversees the university’s licensing contracts to work with licensees that have yet to sign on.
“If there’s a licensee that is found to be in violation or not abiding by the terms of the agreement in the way that it deals with its factories, then that’s grounds for Georgetown to reconsider its relationship,” Hubbell said.
The university first became aware of the accord through its partnership with the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization founded by administrators and student activists at universities across the United States to protect the rights of workers who produce products sold here.
The accord represents Georgetown’s commitment to caring for the dignity not only of its students, but of those producing any good that carries the Hoya logo, Watson wrote.
“Georgetown accepted the LOC’s recommendation to adopt this new policy because it is committed to protecting the safety and human rights of workers who are engaged in the production of university-licensed apparel. This commitment derives from Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit tradition, which respects the dignity of all workers,” Watson wrote.
Licensing Oversight Committee member Nicky Dubois (COL ’16) echoed Watson and Hubbell’s support for the signing of the accord.
“I believe that it is important for Georgetown as an institution to use our influence where we can to work toward a better world. I’m therefore proud of Georgetown for taking this step toward promoting workers’ rights,” DuBois said.