Working together with major brands, such as VF Corporation, the project team will map and perform a rapid assessment of outsourced production sites. Photo credit: Awaj Foundation

Working together with major brands, such as VF Corporation, the project team will map and perform a rapid assessment of outsourced production sites. Photo credit: Awaj Foundation

GoodWeave International, a non-profit working to end child, forced and bonded labour in global supply chains, has launched a new project to provide marginalised apparel workers in Bangladesh with immediate Covid-19 relief and conduct research on the impact of the pandemic. 

GoodWeave has partnered with Bangladeshi labour rights organisation Awaj Foundation on the one-year project, which also aims to uncover hidden supply chains in Bangladesh's apparel sector; remediate identified cases of child, forced and bonded labor; and build partners' capacity to address these human rights issues long-term.

The programme will directly benefit about 15,000 workers, according to GoodWeave, and is primarily funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)'s Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility, with additional funding from Humanity United.

The most extreme forms of worker exploitation often take place outside factories in hidden supply chains, the non-profit says, adding its project team will work with apparel companies such as Monsoon Accessorize and VF Corporation to map and performing a rapid assessment of outsourced production sites.

"We're poised to scale GoodWeave's impact by sharing our proven methodology for reaching informal workers outside primary factories with brands and counterpart organisations working in Bangladesh," says Nina Smith, CEO of GoodWeave International. "All forms of modern slavery will increase because of the Covid-19 crisis, and we thank FCDO and Humanity United for this funding which will protect at-risk populations and help ensure apparel supply chains are more sustainable."

Nazma Akter, founder and executive director of Awaj Foundation, adds: "Bangladesh's apparel sector and workers have been devastated by the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on global supply chains, and we hope this initiative brings short-term relief from hunger and other life-threatening scenarios to workers, as well as long-term improvements in supply chain transparency and due diligence to provide enhanced protections for informal workers in the post-pandemic world."

At the end of the project, GoodWeave will submit a report to funders, policy-makers and participating brands, to facilitate implementation of due diligence laws, such as the UK Modern Slavery Act. The report will detail the nature of outsourcing in the Bangladesh ready-made garment sector, provide information on geographic clusters of informal workers, wages, debt, employment terms, health and literacy, as well as include recommendations on due diligence measures to mitigate modern slavery risks.

"Monsoon Accessorize is proud of its long-standing commitment to ethical sourcing and protecting every member of its supply chain, and is pleased to be supporting GoodWeave on what should be a valuable project," a company spokesperson told just-style. 

This mapping information, and the interventions employed during the project to remediate and solve the root causes of child labour and worker exploitation, lay the groundwork for longer-term efforts to create more resilient and sustainable supply chains, GoodWeave says.