Activism: why GAP won a 2014 Public Eye Award

One way in which activists and NGOs try to persuade corporations to act more ethically is to encourage people to sign petitions. There have been a number of change.org petitions showing public support for corporations to sign the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh. Like this one aimed at GAP and Walmart.

Another tactic, adopted by the NGO Berne Declaration, has been to encourage people to vote in the Public Eye Award for corporate social irresponsibility.  GAP were in the running for a 2014 award. Why have they been nominated?

Fashion giant Gap has refused to sign the binding agreement «Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh». Instead, it is actively undermining serious reform by promoting a non-binding corporate-controlled program. …

After the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 workers, over 100 global apparel brands have taken responsibility for safety in their supply chain by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

But fashion giant Gap, one of the top purchasers of Bangladeshi-made clothes, has refused to sign this binding agreement with unions. Instead, it is actively undermining serious reform by promoting a non-binding corporate-controlled program that’s completely unaccountable to workers.

Gap has substituted a publicity strategy for workers’ safety and rights and it has brought along other companies, like Walmart and Target, with it.

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The deadline for votes was 22 January 2014, and GAP won the Jury Prize. Here’s how this was reported on one NGO – the Clean Clothes Campaign – website:

… Liana Foxvog from International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), who along with SumOfUs und United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) nominated GAP, says: “Gap deserves this award. The company portrays a public image of being a leader in responsibility while actively undermining real corporate responsibility. Instead of joining the Accord, GAP created together with Walmart the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Despite sounding promising, this initiative is not legally binding and includes no union involvement, making it hardly more than a PR stunt to dodge safety responsibility.”

Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity and herself a former child garment worker is in Switzerland where the Public Eye Awards are being held.  She said: “Gap still refuses to make a contractual commitment to work with their suppliers and local and international trade unions to ensure that repairs are made and workers have the right to refuse dangerous work.”

CCC applauds the Public Eye Awards for highlighting Gap’s systematic failure to live up to their social responsibility and calls on Gap and all other brands to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Furthermore, all brands involved at Rana Plaza should pay into the compensation fund for the Rana Plaza survivors and the families of the deceased.

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For this Challenge, we will be looking closely at petitions and awards like these. And, maybe, voting and signing things to see what difference we can help to make.

NB GAP logo image on home page reproduced with CC license from here.

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