Hiring the Chief Safety Officer at the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety

21 January 2020 by Greg Brittian
blog author

"Acre understood the uniqueness of the situation and difficulties of dealing with the tripartite group involved. They enabled us to find the perfect team to launch with from around the globe and were truly helpful as we set the foundation up. We couldn't have done it without them." - Andy York, Accord Steering Committee Member​

Eight years on from the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh which shocked the world, workers are still being killed due to poor conditions.

However, the eight-storey garment factory’s collapse in 2013 which killed more than 1,100 workers, was a turning point for the ready-made garment (RMG) industry which saw the birth of the Accord.

The Accord on Fire & Building Safety is a ground-breaking legally binding agreement between more than 200 global retail brands (including H&M, Adidas and Zara) and the world’s two largest trade unions, with the aim of improving the safety conditions of around three million garment workers in Bangladesh.

With a limited timeframe to launch, Acre was retained to hire the first two employees – the Executive Director and Chief Safety Inspector, both rare profiles, yet vital to the success of the initiative.

While the RMG industry still continues to have safety concerns (from low wages to lack of social protection) and there is still more work to be done, the situation has improved with the Chief Safety Officer playing a vital role in implementing changes to benefit the workers.

More than 38,000 inspections have been carried out at 1,600 factories to protect two million workers and more than 120,000 fire, building and electrical hazards have been fixed during that time.

The Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh was established to represent the European brands in-country, while North American brands in Bangladesh were represented by The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

The two organisations have worked tirelessly to ensure a minimum acceptable standard of safety and working conditions (successfully addressing some of the major safety and human rights issues faced by the industry), in the hope that a disaster on the scale of the Rana Plaza factory will not be repeated.

Now, The Alliance for Bangladesh Work Safety has evolved into Nirapon, an amalgamation of two Bangla words: “Nirapodh” and “Abashon” which together mean “Safe Place.”

This is due to the focus shifting to not only maintain the standards that have been implemented to date, but also to build competence in the wider industry with local talent to enable a cultural transformation around the safety and working conditions in RMG factories.

The Nirapon mission is to cultivate a safe working environment for Bangladesh RMG factories, workers, owners and managers by serving as the point of contact on the ground for the collective efforts of its member brands.

Acre's work with Accord

The brief required extremely niche experience and the need for candidates to relocate to Bangladesh. Acre engaged an internal project team of five and a global research drive was executed. This resulted in a market map of 410 individuals across both roles. The shortlists were comprised of individuals based in the UK, Bangladesh, North America, and the Middle East.

Innovative Selection:

Acre developed a bespoke interview process for a six person interview panel based across three continents. Prior to the interviews, Acre hosted conference calls to delegate responsibilities to the panel and to brief them on the interview format. Acre facilitated eleven first interviews on their video conference platform attending each one to ensure smooth running. Final interviews were undertaken in London with a panel of six interviewers and five candidates. Acre coordinated and chaired every interview over two days.

Ongoing Support:

As the Accord was in start-up phase Acre supported in a number of ways:

  • Created the employment contract template for the new hires and drafted offer letters.

  • Coordinated insurances for the new hires and engaged tax advisors to ensure expat packages were structured correctly.

  • Identified and engaged an expat specialist to manage specific logistical items such as work permitting and relocation.

Outcome:

Both initial positions were filled, and in addition, based on the calibre of candidates presented, the Accord hired a third candidate (a second Executive Director) in order to accelerate the programme. All three are considered to be international leaders in their field and were sourced from Canada, the US and UK. The entire assignment was completed within three and a half months from the initial conversation. Having placed the Leadership Team, the Accord now employs almost 200 staff.

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