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Who is to blame? A re-examination of fast fashion after the 2013 factory disaster in Bangladesh

Ian M. Taplin (Department of Sociology & International Studies, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA and Kedge Business School, Bordeaux, France)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 25 February 2014




This paper seeks to examine the various actors responsible for the recent tragedy at a clothing factory in Bangladesh. Rather than focusing on the actual factory owner, it evaluates the broader structural and institutional factors, plus a particular Western retailer strategy of fast fashion, that together explain the practical inevitability of such tragedies.


As a case study of a particular incident, it presents data from newspaper accounts and descriptive statistics to evaluate the broader context of an industrial accident.


By examining the full context of the incident, it becomes apparent that there were systemic issues that effectively encouraged many parties to engage in workplace policies that almost inevitably can lead to accidents or at least labor abuses. Finally, blame is apportioned to Western consumers whose insatiable appetite for “fashionable” goods merely feeds a retail system that was set up to resolve earlier supply chain problems and ended up taking advantage of changing international trade regimes.


The paper takes a much broader examination and analysis of institutional factors that shape work conditions than studies that focus merely on labor-management issues.



M. Taplin, I. (2014), "Who is to blame? A re-examination of fast fashion after the 2013 factory disaster in Bangladesh", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 10 No. 1/2, pp. 72-83.



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