Fashion Revolution in Review: A Decade after the Rana Plaza Collapse

Social sustainability
April 24, 2024, marks 11 years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building. While the Rana Plaza collapse was not the first and sadly not the last garment factory incident, the sheer scale of this tragedy was so unprecedented that it gave birth to the world’s largest fashion activism movement: Fashion Revolution.

With its annual Fashion Revolution Week around the corner, while reflecting on this past decade, the most burning question is IF and HOW the fashion industry has changed regarding workers’ rights and supply chain accountability.

What has the fashion revolution brought, and what is there to work on in the next decade?

Awareness & Public pressure

Prior to 2013, the general awareness of the supply chain practices in the fashion industry had been superficial at best. Not many were aware of how much had changed in the 21st century.
With the rise of fast fashion brands in the early 2000s, fashion businesses were pushed to produce faster and cheaper, resulting in the offshoring of garment production to developing countries with looser laws and regulations. The Rana Plaza collapse was a clear result of all these new developments, and the public was only starting to discover that when the news hit the stands.
With the launch of the documentary The True Cost in 2015, the veil of the fashion industry was lifted. Year after year, the public pressure to make the fashion industry more ethical and sustainable has been rising hand in hand with the number of new fashion brands founded on these very principles.
With that came another challenge – greenwashing. Jumping on the latest trends, even the most notorious fast fashion brands started using vague sustainability terms to bend their minimum green efforts into maximum positive perception.
As a result, laws and regulations are slowly coming into effect to combat this greenwashing problem.

Laws & Regulations

Right after the Rana Plaza event, the key emphasis was on the workers’ rights and safety. With the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, more than 200 brands joined forces to ensure critical renovations and repairs. In 2021, this accord was updated with a commitment to expand the safety programme beyond Bangladesh. In 2022, Pakistan was announced as the first country to expand the accord, and more countries are expected to come.
With the critical fixed eyes on the fashion industry, more pending issues have been pointed out – from unethical practices to negative environmental impact. To recover the public reputation, many fashion businesses have opted for vague slogans of positive change rather than making the changes in the first place.
That is why several laws and regulations like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) have recently come into effect, and many are to follow – from the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) to EU Anti-Greenwashing Law.
Not only that: regulatory bodies started reviewing major players for their unfounded green claims. Last year alone, the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK announced that it would review sustainability claims made by UK’s ASOS, Boohoo and Asda. And as a result, ASOS took down the “Responsible Edit” filter on their website as a safety precaution. On top of that, the EU Commission moved to ban products made with forced labour on the EU market. Without question, more laws and regulations are in the works to keep the fashion industry in check no matter where the goods originate. .

Consumer behaviour & Next steps

While there are many positive changes to celebrate, consumer behaviour remains unchanged: the global fast fashion market has not stopped growing and expects to increase from $91.23 billion in 2021 to $ 133.43 billion in 2026.
The challenge for the next decade is how to make the industry sustainable as a whole, not having only a fraction of fashion deemed conscious and ethical. Sustainability has many levels and new highs to reach, with the circular fashion movement taking the ground to produce less, reuse more, and choose better.
Ultimately, the baseline is this: a responsible fashion industry taking accountability and improving continuously.
The main focus for fashion professionals should be to KNOW their supply chain thoroughly. Learn about potential risks in our new course and only then you can do something about it and make impact and safe people’s lives.
Check our new short course on "Supply Chain Risk Analysis" here.

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