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Can anti-corruption laws drive health and safety?

Photo courtesy of is the cost of bribery and corruption? We’re seeing it played out daily in Bangladesh as each body is pulled out of the rubble of the Rana Plaza, where there are now more than 600 confirmed deaths in what has become the worst disaster for Bangladesh’s $20 billion-a-year garment industry.

If your company is a U.S. or EU purchaser of such finished products, what should your response be? In a New York Times article entitled Some Retailers Rethink Role in Bangladesh, reporter Steven Greenhouse noted that the Walt Disney Company “in March ordered an end to production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh.” Greenhouse said, “Disney’s move reflects the difficult calculus that companies with operations in countries like Bangladesh are facing as they balance profit and reputation against the backdrop of a wrenching human disaster.”

But is this the right response? In an article in the Financial Times (FT) entitled “Business must lead in Bangladesh,” John Grapper wrote: “The first thing western companies need to do is the simplest: to stay in the country and to keep providing jobs for women, not to withdraw because they fear being tainted by association. Despite everything, the industry provides better-paid jobs than the alternative – working on rural farms – and has helped to emancipate women.”

Many have argued that western governments in particular have no place in enforcing their version of morality, in the form of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or UK Bribery Act. But rarely is the flip side of this argument discussed, that being where a business solution can help to end corruption. Gapper notes this reality with the following, “Collectively, companies could push the government to overcome the obstacles of corruption, hidden army influence and factory owners who double as politicians. They hold the buying power in a sector that makes up 13 percent of gross domestic product.” Perhaps this may be a lesson from the tragedy in Bangladesh.


Thomas Fox is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog.

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  1. In each and every place there are many and different types of laws which are highly needed to follow up in order to bring harmony and peace to the particular place. We should be more aware of the different types needed to drive the laws of health and safety.

  2. the healthcare facility in the country like Bangladesh is the worst. Most of the textile players of the world do have there manufacturing unit in this country mainly because they get workers as well as the raw material for a low cost and hence cost of production is minimized and also this country being in the center of Asia is well connected to other big powers of Asia like China and India and hence making it easy for these players to reach there target customer at a low production cost. But they have forgotten the health care facility of these follows who work with them. Same was the condition of Africa a few years ago. These players have to think about the health condition of people working with them or else this number will even go up.

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