Myanmar remains a key region of concern in terms of human rights abuses for apparel companies, with mentions of “Myanmar” in company filings having increased twofold since 2016, according to GlobalData’s analytics.
Since Myanmar’s military coup in February 2021, garment workers – predominantly women – have found themselves on the front line of the junta’s most severe expressions of power. At least 55 industrial union leaders are reported to have been killed and over 300 union and workers’ activists have been arrested and sentenced.
Today, the situation remains much the same. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre tracks the ever-lengthening record of human and worker rights abuse allegations taking place in the country, which range from wage theft and attacks on freedom of association to gender-based violence and killings. The workers affected by the allegations are employed at 124 factories producing for at least 47 global fashion brands, including Inditex, H&M and Primark.
Corporate tolerance for these ongoing abuses, however, appears to be waning.
In June, Inditex, the owner of Zara, announced its “phased exit” from the country, in accordance with global trade union IndustriALL’s call for disinvestment, while H&M has recently launched a probe into 20 alleged instances of labour abuse at its Myanmar factories.
Among the companies discussing Myanmar’s place in their supply chains in 2023, as tracked by GlobalData, were M&S, Next, and major US children’s apparel designer Carter’s.
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In M&S’s 2022 environmental, social and governance (ESG) report published in June 2023, the group said it had closely monitored the situation in Myanmar following the 2021 coup and had chosen to work towards a responsible exit from the country by March 2023.
Next claimed in its 2023 ESG report that it had “considered not sourcing from Myanmar” but concluded that an exit, though sending a strong sign to the regime, would “do huge damage to local communities and workers, depriving them of investment and wages.”
Carter’s also identified Myanmar as representing a particularly high risk for the use of child labour in its 2022 Corporate Social Responsibility report, saying: “We have no tolerance of forced labour, and we monitor our Tier 1 suppliers and events in the regions where we do business.”
Our signals coverage is powered by GlobalData’s Thematic Engine, which tags millions of data items across six alternative datasets — patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news — to themes, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us to identify the most disruptive threats across each of the sectors we cover and the companies best placed to succeed.