The Better Work programme in Bangladesh is gathering momentum, with 94 factories having joined the initiative since November last year.

The programme has seen four new factories join the programme in the last month, which is represented by 30 buyer partners globally, including Patagonia, Hennes & Mauritz (M&H), Nike, and Gap Inc. The programme represents 181,740 workers, 55% of which are female. 

Plans to set up Better Work Bangladesh, a joint venture of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), were first announced in October 2013 as part of a package of measures to help shore up the sector in the wake of the Tazreen Fashion factory fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse.

Operations will initially cover factories in two areas of the greater Dhaka region where there is high factory density, with plans to scale up to 500 factories by 2018, the final year of what is expected to be a three-year programme.

The initiative will provide factory-level services, including assessments of compliance with national labour law and international standards, as well as advisory and training services to help factories make improvements, not only to working conditions but also in productivity and quality. Factory assessment reports will be shared with buyers, while public reports will be released to provide progress over time.

As of the end of November, 37 factories had been assessed, with 163 advisory visits made to factories. The objective was to introduce the programme and understand the factory's operations, identifying key challenges, particularly related to compliance and health and safety, and introduce a self-diagnosis tool with the aim of getting the factory to be transparent. Finally a work plan is agreed on for the duration of the factory's engagement with Better Work.

Among the challenges in Bangladesh is the fact that numerous labour projects are already operating in the country's garment sector (including those of ILO, international brands and retailers through the Accord and the Alliance, NGOs and others), so avoiding duplication is key.