Duncan visiting Bangladesh earlier this month. Photo credit: UK Department for International Development

Duncan visiting Bangladesh earlier this month. Photo credit: UK Department for International Development

The UK Government has set up a new database detailing the inspection results of ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh in a bid to help British brands and retailers make informed choices about which suppliers they work with.

Part-funded with UK aid money, the database will set out which factories have been inspected by the Accord and the Alliance initiatives and by Bangladeshi experts from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). It will link to published inspections carried out by the Accord and Alliance.

There are currently 3,497 factories on the database, which lists the factory's name, address and registration number, the name of the owner, the type of work carried out, and the number of employees.

The database will soon show the outcomes of initial inspections into structural, fire and electrical safety, and new information will be added as more inspections are carried out.

Development Minister Alan Duncan is urging British businesses that source from Bangladesh to use the first anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Dhaka, in which more than 1,100 people were killed, to look at ways to drive positive change in the garment sector.

This includes contributing to the Rana Plaza Compensation Trust Fund, which currently stands at $15m but is a long way short of the $40m needed to provide the compensation owed to the victims and their families.

Retailer and brands are also being asked to introduce more transparency into the supply chain by being clear about exactly where their clothes are produced, sharing information between themselves, workers' organisations and with consumers, and having open and honest discussions with manufacturers about the real costs of production.

Recent government efforts to improve safety and working conditions in Bangladesh's garment sector include three new projects launches as part of its GBP1.8m (US$3.0m) Trade and Global Value Chains Initiative (TGVCI) to forge partnerships between buyers and factory owners to improve working conditions.

The projects will help factory staff improve working conditions and productivity, addressing fire safety, absenteeism, working hours, take-home pay and efficiency.

They will also provide training for middle management to improve knowledge and understanding of labour and safety standards, and how to apply these in their garment factories. This includes information about Bangladesh's new labour law. 

In addition, they aim to improve the healthcare and advice given to workers by training nurses who work in factory clinics.