EUROPEAN RETAILERS PIN HIGH HOPES ON BANGLADESH GARMENTS
Bangladesh’s apparel sector will continue to thrive due to retailers’ growing confidence and the country’s ability to supply garments at competitive prices, said officials of Foreign Trade Association, a Brussels-based platform mainly of European retailers.
The platform with 1,400 active members has different wings such as Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI).
“My guess is that Bangladesh’s garment sector will continue to grow. But it depends on how its competitors are doing. The buyers have good links with Bangladesh and a good relationship with the factory owners,” said Lorenz Berzau, managing director of BSCI.
Berzau along with Christian Ewert, director general of the association, was in Dhaka recently to see progress of a training programme on compliance in the garment sector.
The BSCI gives guidelines to the members on different issues, Berzau told The Daily Star at The Westin Hotel on October 23.
The association has continuously been running the training programmes as the retailers also have a responsibility towards sustainable business practices, he said.
Both the officials spoke about the prospects and problems of the country’s $25 billion garment sector that has been going through major reforms since the Rana Plaza building collapse in April last year.
“Bangladesh needs responsible entrepreneurship as garment is already a mature industry. If garment owners become more responsible, they will one day not require any foreign firm to coach them on compliance issues for sustainability,” Berzau said.
The BSCI, on behalf of Foreign Trade Association and the retailers, has been working with garment factory owners, managers and workers to improve their compliance with labour laws, workers’ rights, fire safety and environmental issues, he said. In Bangladesh, the BSCI held seven training programmes on fire safety, which were attended by more than 100 people from 110 factories this year. Around 230 people from 150 factories participated in eight programmes last year.
On price hike by retailers, Berzau said the retailers are probably ready to pay more, but they need to know that the extra amount will go to workers.
The government, employers and trade unions should regularly review workers’ wages, he added.
Berzau said, to help the sector grow further, Bangladesh needs a reasonable approach to compliance, including important issues like management styles, health and safety, wages and working hours.
On changing the management styles, the BSCI gives training to owners, management teams and workers on how to improve industrial relations to ensure a safe workplace, he said. “Industrial relations have improved a lot in Bangladesh. The incidents of unrest in the sector declined a lot over the years. We are continuing motivational training programmes in Bangladesh.”
“The key message is that we are working for greater capacity building and responsible business among retailers, factory owners, management and workers,” said Ewert of the Foreign Trade Association. Currently, Bangladesh is the second largest apparel supplier worldwide after China. Bangladesh exported garment items worth $24.5 billion in fiscal 2013-14 and the export target for the current fiscal year has been set at $26.90 billion.
NOVEMBER 10, 2014