On Wednesday, 24 April 2013 a catastrophic event happened. Eight floors of the Savar building, in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed. As a result, approximately 1300 people died and 2500 injured. Although the lives of the employees were in danger, the commercial benefit has overcome safety to re-design the original four-floor building to eight. This paper will use the ethical cycle to demonstrate both benefits and threats of having extra floors in commercial buildings based on a real case from Bangladesh.
Nightmare of Bengalis
As far as safety is concerned, the foundation of Savar building had poor quality construction materials. After the collapse, a high level of Bangladesh government committee investigated that the building was constructed on unstable land, and using extremely severe iron roads and cement in the foundation. However, minutes of health and safety bodies have always been emphasising on “The right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention” said International Labour Organisation.
Another dark vision of Bangladesh garment industry is manipulating labour force as cheap as possible, and this is quashed not only labour rights but also children. After the collapse, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker Andrew Morgan made a documentary film by name “The True Cost” about the tragedy of Savar building. Morgan zeros in on Shima Akhter, 23, who moved from her local village to the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, at age 12 to work in the factories. “I believe these clothes are produced by our blood,” she said. This example is a drop in an ocean that richer people morally quashing labour’s rights, so we need a moral and legal obligation to protect them. No one should be allowed to exploit workers simply to run a more profitable business.
Since the lack of enough responsibility and discouragement of Bangladesh culture for whistleblowing, the building engineers morally broke engineering societies’ codes of conduct. This fault historically recorded as the worst engineering fault in the building history and remains unavoidable. Although the engineers had knowledge about both poor foundation and unsuitableness of re-design into garment industry due to significant vibration of the building machinery, they still follow manger’s choice. Moreover, corruption has broken all virtue bonds of the engineers. Instead of choosing excellence, honesty, integrity and pride, they chose such an evil behaviour. As far as culture concern, research has shown that whistleblowing pretty much depends on Individualism and Collectivism culture dimensions. Bangladesh, based on Hofstede’s culture dimension hypothesis, is a Collectivism society. This means whistleblowing is a really rare case and unattractive.
Since politician power legalised building code in Bangladesh, a numerous of buildings are built bypass around regulation. Sohel Rana, the owner of Savar building, has used through his strong connection with Bangladesh politicians and his wealth through corruption to legalise his building, and even overcome government’s inspection teams. This is the darkest view of most Eastern and Middle East countries which rules can be flexed against corruption. It has been reported that Savar building was not the only building where these immoral and illegal practices were followed; in spite of building 4000 buildings each year in Bangladesh; for instance, in 2008 only six of them have recorded as a major issue.
Dreams of Bengalis
As Bangladesh living situation has become very difficult, the government has inspired organisations to invest and construct business for decreasing unemployment rate. Regarding garment factories, in Bangladesh, more than four million local people are employed. It is reported that people are wondering to have an enough GDP (Gross Domestic Product); for example, a 27-years-old Bengali who fled from poverty “It’s better than where I came from… At least, there’s a chance of making a living here, of a better life, perhaps,” Salahuddin says. Obviously, demand for employment not only high in Bangladesh, but also in developed countries as well.
The growth of manufacturing can benefits local woman workers for better wellbeing, and garment factories have been accounting for 80% of Bangladesh’s export which is 10% of Bangladesh’s GDP. The majority of Bangladesh garment workers are women, besides surviving themselves, they help their families and relatives. Since garment factories have been one of the main income sources, Bengali workers living under the shadow of woven machines. It has been reported that four-fifths of Bangladesh export are made by garment industries. Therefore, one tenth of whole Bengalis’ GDP is covered by this industry.
Recently, Bangladesh has known by the second largest garment manufacturer in the world which has more than 5,600 factories, so this industry is really attractive from Bengalis’ perspective. In addition, 60% of their products have been exported to Europeans countries. This means Bangladesh is the home for foreign garment companies including H&M, Gap, ZARA and PRIMARK. Furthermore, it has been reported that Bengalis at least annually earn $20 billion in this exchange. This is one of the main reason Bengalis are attracted and inspired by this business including Sohel Rana and his partners which at least annually makes $1.8 million through Savar building.
It is argued that cheap price garment demand is significantly increased because the majority of people have concerned with poverty and fashion. It has been reported that 80% of humanity are living by less than $10 per day, and costumes through the world are enjoying purchasing clothes in lowest possible cost. The value of the market share for cheap clothing is believed to have doubled or tripled between 2004 and 2014, and clothing sector is growing at twice the rate of the clothing market as a whole. In addition fashion clothes, frankly, a majority of women are concerning about fashion. Although men demand for clothing is also increased, women due to fashion incentive are almost twice comparing with men.
33: Yu Jing, Xiaochun Mu, Hunar Aziz, Yulan Yao