Dhaka building collapse a lesson for all

Updated: 2013-05-10 07:06

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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Dhaka building collapse a lesson for allThe fact that more than 2,400 people have been rescued from the ruins of the eight-story Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh is a relief given that the death toll went beyond 900 by Thursday. But the shock waves the collapse of the building sent around the world cannot be ignored.

This week, the Bangladeshi government announced that it will inspect thousands of garment factories for possible building flaws following the collapse of the building that housed several garment factories, shops and a bank, in a suburb of the capital Dhaka on April 24. Sadly, that is unlikely to mean that such a tragedy will not be repeated, as we have seen a string of such accidents in the country in the past few years.

The owner and eight other people, including the owners of the garment factories, have been detained, as officials said the building's owner illegally added three floors and allowed the garment factories to install heavy machines and generators, even though the building was not designed to support such weight.

Meanwhile, several European and US companies, which had outsourced garment production to factories in the collapsed building, have come under pressure from angry protesters. However, these brand names are arguing that it is local corruption that should be held accountable for the disaster, citing the index from Transparency International.

That corruption is responsible for shoddy buildings is probably not news in Bangladesh or even in China. However, this does not reduce the guilt of many multinational companies, which have been clearly taking advantage of the low labor, safety and environment standards in Bangladesh and other developing countries.

All too often they are prepared to turn a blind eye to the problematic working conditions of their suppliers and contractors as long as they can get their products at a lower cost.

For these companies, corporate social responsibility is often a double standard, depending on whether they are operating in their own countries or in developing countries.

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