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December 13, 2017updated 09 Apr 2021 7:45am

M&S partners on improving Bangladesh RMG worker health

Retailer Marks & Spencer has joined forces with global confederation Care International to create a sustainable and scalable model to address the health and social needs of the more than 4m female garment workers in Bangladesh.

By Beth Wright

UK retailer Marks & Spencer has joined forces with global confederation Care International to create a sustainable and scalable model to address the health and social needs of the more than 4m female garment workers in Bangladesh.

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Working in partnership with global healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), M&S and Care International, a subsidiary of humanitarian aid company Care, will build on a one-year pilot undertaken in 2015-16.

The full HALOW+ (Health Access and Linkage Opportunities for Workers) programme has now launched with five new M&S factories, with plans to expand to 15, reaching 50,000 workers and their communities across the District of Gazipur, near Dhaka.

The programme’s focus is to improve the health awareness and practices of RMG workers through training worker ‘Health Champions’ as well as increasing access to health services, within and outside the factories. Other goals include improving worker-management dialogue and empowering the communities surrounding the factories.

“At M&S we’re committed to improving wellbeing in our supply chain as part of our sustainability programme – Plan A 2025,” explains Laura Hawkesford, ethical trading manager at M&S. “We know that collaboration is key to driving long term change, which is why we’re proud to partner with other organisations on exciting projects such as HALOW+. A healthy and happy workforce is good for everyone and we’re excited to see this programme thrive as it becomes embedded within the community.”

Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is also supporting HALOW+ by creating a business and social return on investment (ROI) model for the programme. This presents a significant opportunity for the partnership to demonstrate the business value of HALOW+ and advocate to other factories to invest in the lives of their workers and surrounding communities. Improved factory efficiency was identified within just one year of launch, according to Care International.

Highlights from the pilot phase include the training of 241 workers as ‘Health Champions’ and information and awareness raising activities that reached all 7,700 workers. There was also a significant reduction in anaemia, through increased distribution of IFA (Iron Folic Acid) supplements and nutritional education.  Factory health clinics were also renovated, with new services added based on worker feedback.

In addition to changes at factory level, the HALOW+ partners have built relationships with government bodies to implement changes in the wider urban health system. As a result of the pilot, 25,000 family and community members can now visit satellite health clinics in their community, access improved health information and have their needs represented by Community Support Groups.

“This initiative is a strong example of Care International’s highly effective Public Private Partnerships and is contributing to our goal to empower workers, particularly women, to improve individual and community health,” explains Shabnam Amini, fundraising, partnerships and communications director at Care International UK. “HALOW+ is working in both factories and communities, to address the underlying health and nutritional challenges facing workers and create long-term change.”

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