Blog: Leonie BarrieCould Burma be the next sourcing frontier?

Leonie Barrie | 30 April 2012

In its constant search for cheaper and cheaper production bases around the world, there are few places the apparel and textile industry has left untouched. But could Burma be the next frontier?

Discussions are set to intensify following last week's decision by the European Union (EU) to suspend most of its sanctions against the country for the next year. But while the EU's move is likely to open up Burma to renewed scrutiny from fabric and garment firms, industry executives seem to agree it is unlikely to present a major sourcing opportunity in the short term. Indeed, the US continues to impose a total ban on the country's imports.

The UK's biggest clothing retailer Marks & Spencer hopes to recycle up to 350 million garments a year under a new scheme that calls on customers to donate an item of clothing every time they buy a new one. The Shwopping initiative, launched in partnership with Oxfam, will see the donated garments being resold, reused or recycled.

French group PPR, which owns luxury brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent as well as sportswear firm Puma, is also boosting its sustainability credentials. The company has unveiled a series of targets for the next five years following the launch of its green profit and loss report last year.  The programme will focus on reducing carbon emissions, waste and water, raw materials sourcing, hazardous chemicals, paper and packaging, and the supply chain.

Meanwhile, trade groups representing thousands of buyers in apparel, retail, licensing, and footwear firms in the US, Canada, and Europe are appealing to the Bangladeshi government for an investigation into the death of a labour activist and former apparel worker. A letter to the Prime Minister warns the groups' members are "committed to sourcing...in a responsible manner that respects human and worker rights."

And shares in Wal-Mart's Mexican operations have plummeted after allegations the company bribed officials to speed up new store openings. Concerns that US regulators will also pursue action against parent company Wal-Mart Stores for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act could have some far-reaching consequences for the world's largest retailer.


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