Details of nearly 1,600 Bangladesh factories used by more than 90 leading fashion retailers and brands have been released October 3 as part of a commitment to improve safety and transparency in the country`s garment industry. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, to which new signatories include River Island and Arcadia Group, will make the list of the garment factories publically available online later this month.In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,129 people nearly six months ago, 90 brand name clothing manufacturers — such as H&M, Primark and Joe Fresh — signed a legally binding agreement to improve safety in the factories they operate in.The Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh brings 90 brands, global unions and non-governmental organizations together with the promise to start holding regular inspections of all their suppliers’ factories, make those reports public and finance repairs to unsafe work places.The list of approximately 1,566 factories includes more than 2 million employees and now those employees are covered by the accord’s safety net, says Tom Grinter, a spokesperson for IndustriALL, a global union that is working with the brands under the leadership of the International Labour Organization to implement the accord.It is the most comprehensive list of Bangladesh factories ever put together, containing specifics on how many floors are in each building, how many garment manufacturers are operating in the structure, the number of workers, and the complete names and addresses of each firm.Most of this information has never been disclosed before in the complex and secretive world of the fast fashion industry.“This is one of the factors that has created the problem worldwide — the secrecy of the supply chain,” Grinter said.For years, North American and European fashion brands have used garment factories in Bangladesh due to the cheap labour and the factories’ ability to quickly turn around orders that can keep up with changing fashion demands.Companies may have contracts to produce clothes in one factory, but that factory may then contract out some of the work in order so the garments can be produced faster. Those subcontractors can send work out again to other factories.Before recent garment fires and disasters in Bangladesh, such as Rana and the Tazreen Fashions factory fire that killed 112 people last November, some western companies claimed sometimes they were not aware of who was actually producing their products, Grinter said.“Companies in the west say they didn’t even know they were sourcing at, Tazreen, for example, or someplace else ...” he said in an interview. “One of the goals of the new era, under the accord, is to have more transparency and openness. It is a big step forward.”However, the brands did not wish to publicize which of the 1,566 factories they use.Regardless, this level of transparency is a welcome change for the garment industry and it will prompt safety improvements, said Bob Jeffcott, policy analyst at the Maquila Solidarity Network, a Toronto-based labour and women’s rights organization that works to improve wages and conditions of workers throughout the world.The next time there is a fire, collapse or an industrial accident, there will be a list of 1,566 factories available that describes how many companies were operating in the building and how many employees were present. About $77 million in compensation for the survivors and families of those who died in the Rana disaster is being sought.As part of the accord, in the next few weeks, specially trained inspectors will be conducting reviews of the factories and the brands will be responsible for any safety upgrades.Once inspections are complete, reports will be shared among companies and that will be an incentive for suppliers to improve their practices, noted Jeffcott.Consumers can do their part by checking which companies have signed the accord, he added. Shoppers can soon be confident that clothes they buy from accord brands will no longer be coming from unsafe sweatshops.“The companies that are part of the accord are part of a serious program and those that aren’t, are not,” Jeffcott said. Even if you don’t know which company is using which factory — if you want to make shopping decisions you can do so, based on who is involved in this program and who is not.”Only one Canadian company, Loblaw, the owner of Joe Fresh, has signed the accord and only five U.S. firms have joined. Most North American firms, such as the Hudson Bay Co., have formed an alliance with Walmart and the Gap.Last week, the Guardian newspaper reported retailers Primark, Tesco and Debenhams (firms that have all signed the accord) pulled out of using Liberty Fashion Wears in Dhaka, as the owner refused to make safety improvements to the building.But the owner of the factory, Mozemmel Huq, told the Guardian that he had a report from engineers and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association that it was declared safe.