Traditional media and social media alike were churning this morning with reports and commentary on the collapse Wednesday of an eight-story garment factory building in Savar, a suburb of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
And even as rescue and recovery work was proceeding, the brands whose operations used that facility were facing the potential for cascading waves of negative customer reactions. Already, local protests have erupted against lax regulations and unsafe conditions in the Bangladesh garment industry.
The death toll topped 300 as of today, making it the worst workplace-related disaster in a country that has had more than its share of occupational incidents and is known for shoddy workplace safety. Last year, a factory fire killed 112 people.
As of Friday, the AP was reporting, local authorities said that the building employed 3,122 people and that 2,200 people had been rescued.
Several well-known clothing and retail brands were reported by AP to have produced garments at the factory, including Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms.
And with the Bangladesh garment industry one of the largest in the world, this catastrophic event increases pressure yet again on brands to live up to their often lofty—but apparently sometimes empty—corporate social responsibility credos.
Even as protests mount in Bangladesh, Fox News reported today that big clothing and retail brands have rejected a union plan for nationwide safety inspections in Bangladesh.
Apparel companies and retailers at some point need to come face to face with the question: What price cheap clothes? And for their part, communicators should push the question and help drive companies to live up to their CSR mandate.