Benetton to show true colors at Milan Fashion week

Clean Clothes Campaign marks Milan Fashion Week, which opens today, with actions across Europe calling on Benetton to stop delaying payments to the Rana Plaza victims by immediately contributing at least $5 million into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

The actions will kick off today in Belgium where activists will participate in a die-in protest in front of the Benetton flag ship store in Brussels. In Milan on February 28, activists will gather in Piazza Duomo. Activists from across Europe will continue to pressure the company through viral actions across social media.

Benetton has been the target of sustained campaigning since the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund was launched in early 2014. At the end of last week Benetton finally announced that it was committing to paying into the Fund, but according to a short statement issued by the company on Friday it is delaying making a decision on an amount, instead contracting an 'independent' third party to advise on a sum which may not be announced until the anniversary.

While the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) cautiously welcomes Benetton's change of heart, it is concerned that delaying payment may prevent workers from getting compensation in advance of the second anniversary of the disaster, and urges the company to act now to prove its commitment to the Rana Plaza victims.

Since the opening of the Fund in January 2014 campaigners have argued that donations should reflect a company’s ability to pay, the size of their relationship with Bangladesh and the extent of their relationship with Rana Plaza. On this basis the CCC have consistently demanded that Benetton pay at least $5 million into the Fund.

“There is no justification for delaying this process further,” says Ilona Kelly of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “The Fund has been open for a year and Benetton is well aware that it is expected to pay $5 million at a minimum. The company has had plenty of time to consider its donation – its time for them to stop delaying and to pay what it owes.”

Campaigners also warn that Benetton has a track record of reneging on its responsibilities, which included first joining and then leaving the Rana Plaza Arrangement which is overseeing the Trust Fund and question the delaying tactics now being used.

“There is nothing independent about a third party which is directly contracted and paid for by Benetton themselves. The facts are clear – we need $9 million to fill the gap in the Fund by the second anniversary – Benetton must pay at least $5 million if its donation is to be meaningful at this stage of the game."

The current shortfall of $9 million also refocuses attention on other brands which have only donated a minimal amount to the fund, including Walmart, Children’s Place, Mango, Robe di Kappa and Inditex.  The Bangladesh Prime Minister's Fund, which collected numerous donations following the disaster, and the Bangladesh factory owners association, the BGMEA, are also being requested by activists to step forward to help close the gap.

“We are presented with a real opportunity at a historical moment if all those affected by this tragedy receive the full compensation they are entitled to by the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse.  This can first and foremost be achieved if Benetton contributes at least $5 million to the fund.  However until the full $30 million is in the fund, responsibility still remains with all stakeholders to immediately increase their donations to meet this goal”, said Deborah Lucchetti from the Campagna Abiti Pulitihe, the Italian affiliate of the Clean Clothes Campaign.