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Discord in Accord: A new regime of Social Compliance & its monitoring system

Recently, Bangladesh has earned the recognition to be the most compliant in the textile industry. But, a few years back the situation was different. Especially, after the pathetic Tazrin Fashion and Rana Plaza incident, the Bangladesh RMG industry earned a very bad reputation globally for objectionable social and safety issues of workers.

But fortunately, it did not take much time to clean the image and become well known for being most compliant in the world within a few years of the holistic effort of the industry stakeholders. The RMG industry is going through a transition period in terms of social compliance and safety from the last few years after the global initiative Accord’s arrival to the country.

Tareq-Amin-TextileToday-Rubana-Huq-Md-Fazlul-Hoque-TexTIMe
Figure 1: (Clockwise) Tareq Amin, Founder & CEO, Textile Today; Rubana Huq, Former President, BGMEA; Chairperson, Mohammadi Group; Director (Industry Representative), RMG Sustainability Council; Md. Fazlul Hoque, Former President BKMEA, Managing Director, Plummy Fashions Ltd.

And recently, again the Accord issue has become a matter of discussion among the RMG stakeholders in Bangladesh.

In the 16th episode titled ‘Social Compliance and Safety: Bangladesh Perspective’ of Textile Today Innovation Meet (TexTIMe), the panelists betrayed issues related to the buzzing social compliance and safety in Bangladesh. The session was moderated by Tareq Amin, Founder & CEO, Textile Today.

Guests of the session:

Rubana Huq, Former President, BGMEA; Chairperson, Mohammadi Group; Director (Industry Representative), RMG Sustainability Council.

Md. Fazlul Hoque, Former President BKMEA, Managing Director, Plummy Fashions Ltd.

Social compliance and safety issues in Bangladesh had been going through a continuous evolution till the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. After the incident, the situation changed rapidly and with the concerted effort the industry stakeholders the RMG industry has achieved a tremendous success in terms of social and safety issues of the workers.

“Though a theoretical deviation in implication may be found, our achievement is tremendous we are the best compared to the other apparel manufacturing countries in social and safety issues.” Md. Fazlul Hoque said.

The burden of compliance imposed by the global buyers on the manufacturers of the country are creating a negative reaction. The manufacturers are now only concerned about meeting the conditions required to become socially compliant rather than doing a holistic welfare of the workers with self-motivation.

As Rubana Huq said “Factories are now just focusing on marking the points of the checkbox containing the conditions to meet the social compliance requirements.”

Not getting proper price for being compliant is also creating frustration among the manufacturers as meeting the compliance conditions is putting an extra burden. And, an internal competition and lack of unity among the manufacturers have made the situation exacerbated.

Rubana-Huq-BGMEA-Mohammadi-Group
Figure 2: Rubana Huq, Former President, BGMEA; Chairperson, Mohammadi Group; Director (Industry Representative), RMG Sustainability Council.

“We have been carrying the burden of compliance and we should make a concerted effort to make buyers pay more to the manufacturers for being compliant.” Rubana Huq said.

Buyers are taking advantage of the discord among the manufacturers in the RMG industry, and in that case, ethical issues of the buyers become questionable.

As Fazlul Hoque said “We, the owners have to pay the workers properly to be compliant. But what about our proper price? Who will ensure our right of getting the right price considering our extra expense? Isn’t it the buyers’ responsibility?”

The initial cancellation of orders during the advent of the Covid 19 was about 3.18 billion dollars which were recovered after an extensive struggle to compel the buyers to complete their orders. Though the buyers committed to complete the orders they were reluctant to pay the proper price and lingered taking over the products. And, the lack of unity among the manufacturers had suffered a lot to get the orders back from the buyers during the pandemic, Rubana Huq said.

So many certification requirements by different international buyers, and the complexities and costs of meeting the certification conditions are making businesses difficult to be conducted by the manufacturers. As Md. Fazlul Hoque said “The whole certification process is one of the elements that oppresses us. And, I think, it hardly has any benefit for the industry”

Bangladesh has the capability to establish a self-monitoring system rather than depending on others for the RMG industry to meet the social compliance and safety issues, but lack of unity and a concerted effort are making the country futile in this. “And this weakness makes us depended on the system prescribed by the outsiders” said Rubana Huq.

Bangladesh has made a significant improvement in water use and carbon emission reduction from the RMG industry. And it has a huge potential to make more improvement in the area of green manufacturing and sustainability. But the problem is again, not getting the proper return for such improvements. “The buyers have to clear their commitments toward sustainability in their supply chain otherwise we have to reconsider investing in such green initiatives.” Said Md. Fazlul Hoque.

Md-Fazlul-Hoque-Plummy-Fashions-Ltd
Figure 3: Md. Fazlul Hoque, Former President BKMEA, Managing Director, Plummy Fashions Ltd.

In the 8 years of Accord’s operation in Bangladesh, the progress was very slow as only less than 25% factories have been certified under it for safety issues. There are many limitation by the factories which were ignored during the Accord’s certification process in the country. Rubana Huq said “Accord had almost zero impact in Bangladesh. In case of the RMG Sustainability Council, it is fully independent according to the newly formed International Accord, and is gaining the ability to operate independently step by step.”

“Though the Accord started with a good intention, it had many flaws in the implementation process. That’s why the success of the initiative is very insignificant” Md. Fazlul Hoque said.

Quick Looks:

Q: Why can’t we be united while negotiating with the buyers though we do it while negotiating with the govt.?

Rubana Huq: This is because, we have common and almost equal interests in the issues negotiated with the government which is not the same in case of the buyers.

  1. Why RSC will be successful?

Rubana Huq: Because of this construction model and further it is a local organization overviewed by government

Q: Do you have any time-target to complete RSC certification of certain factories?

Rubana Huq: We hope to complete certification of all factories within next two years.

  1. Why we are not getting the required leverage of greening?

Md. Fazlul Hoque: Because of our lack of unity and lack of buyer’s responsibility

Watch the video:

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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