The $19bn garment industry in Bangladesh is unfortunately well known for the appalling conditions for its workers. The Rana Plaza Factory which collapsed in 2013, taking with it the lives of more than 1,100 garment workers was unfortunately only one of many disasters that have occurred. Factories are often dangerous, overcrowded, poorly ventilated and unsanitary, and the conditions for workers are often exploitative and abusive. In order to begin to address these issues, The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord was designed in 2013. This accord was a comprehensive independent agreement to make garment factories in Bangladesh safer, made by over 200 brands and retailers, two global trade unions and eight Bangladeshi garment unions. The accord, which is enforced by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), includes mandatory, independent inspections of buildings, mandatory repairs and renovations with financial support from the brands and increased access to workers’ unions for all factory staff. Factories’ safety committees receive training, complaints systems have been set up and safety inspections have been conducted in more than 1600 factories since 2013. In 2018 this agreement expired and was replaced by a new 2018 Accord on Fire and Building safety in Bangladesh. Australian NGO’s and lobby groups such as Oxfam have been instrumental in campaigning Australia’s largest garment manufacturers to sign up to this accord, with many brands such as Kmart, Target, Big W, Cotton On, Forever New, Specialty Fashion and Just Group having signed. Unfortunately, there are still several large Australian brands that are still to sign the accord, and Ethical Partners looks forward to being part of the conversation with these brands, where able, and supporting our NGO panel in their calls for these companies to sign.
While the response to climate change risk by regulators, financial institutions and publicly listed companies is welcome, it currently is not enough to ensure a safe climate. This submission provides a comprehensive assessment of the current risks relating to Australia's key export sectors.
It is estimated that 100 pairs of hands touch your clothes before they arrive in your wardrobe. That’s 100 people at risk of modern slavery, poor working conditions, and exploitation. Ethical Partners has recently signed the Investor Statement in Support of the maintenance and expansion of the Bangladesh Accord.
During March 2021 the Fund returned 3.07% versus the S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index of 2.30%, outperforming the market by 0.77%. An overweight position in consumer staples and an underweight position in materials contributed to relative performance while an overweight position in financials and an underweight position in consumer discretionary detracted from relative performance. The Fund is +20% over the last six months.
Globally, 15% of the population are persons with disabilities. The labor force participation rate globally for people with disabilities sits at 32.8% compared to 77.1% for those without disabilities. We believe it is imperative that investors use their shareholder voice to raise the awareness of this important diversity issue and help companies to improve their inclusion.