A study has investigated if compliance is being compromised in Bangladesh’s apparels sector

A study has investigated if compliance is being compromised in Bangladesh’s apparels sector

A Bangladesh advocacy group has called on the country's apparel sector to allocate additional margin for compliance to improve worker welfare and improve the sector's sustainability.

The comments were made at a meeting organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), in partnership with non-profit group Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) in Dhaka last week.

During the meeting, FES resident representative Henrik Maihack also called for fair wages, the right to unionism, and for the government to play a role in ensuring justice in the apparel industry.

Additionally, CPD research director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem shared findings from one of the group's studies, which explored possible links between allocation of margin and maintaining a firm level of compliance. The study investigated whether compliance is being compromised in Bangladesh’s apparel sector because of its “disjointed value chain” in which market forces put little emphasis on compliance.

Furthermore, expenditure on compliance is, the report says, is “extremely low” in comparison to other countries.

Rubana Huq, managing director of garment manufacturer Mohammadi Group, however, explained that due to high cost, maintaining compliance standards would remain challenging.

It was also pointed out by Anisur Rahman Sinha, former president of the BGMEA, that compliance is of least importance on the buyers’ side, who instead prioritise product quality, delivery time and low price. He cautioned that entrepreneurs need to consider margin and sustainability before compliance, which is a “non-negotiable requirement and not a choice”.

Mikail Shipar, secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, explained the measures put in place to date by the Government, including the adoption of the National Tripartite Plan on Action of Fire Safety, and the amendment of the Labour Act in 2013. He also pointed to the recruitment and training of labour inspectors and the facilitation of factory inspections by the Accord and the Alliance.

CPD Distinguished Fellow, Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, asked how many factories could internalise compliance costs without access to finance, and whether more profitable RMG companies were more compliant or not?

Regarding public policy, he recommended the harmonisation of standards across countries, adding that private buyers and merchandisers should not dictate compliance standards, but that public institutions should increasingly develop their own policies and regulations.