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It is high time to think about creating online platform

Bangladesh is set to lose roughly $6 billion in export revenue this FY mainly due to unethical buying practices of the world’s largest brands and retailers

The COVID-19 pandemic has very sadly exposed an ugly picture of the apparel brands. Because except for some brands they canceled orders, demanded discounts from the apparel manufacturing countries including Bangladesh. Their unethical buying practice, which created an unsustainable supply chain, led to a critical crisis situation for the suppliers.

After the Rana Plaza incident, Bangladeshi manufacturers invested billions of USD on factory safety remediation. The industry has rebranded itself as an ethical and sustainable manufacturing hub but workers’ livelihood is uncertain as big brands and retailers declined to pay for completed orders in their supplier factories.

Bangladesh, the second-largest apparel producer after China, is set to lose roughly US $6 billion in export revenue this financial year mainly due to unethical buying practices of the world’s largest brands and retailers.

Considering this reality Textile Today took an interview with Md. Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Director, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association; Director, International Apparel Federation and CEO, Fatullah Apparels Ltd. Here is a glimpse of the discussion for our reader.

Figure: Md. Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Director, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association
Figure: Md. Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Director, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Textile Today: Since Rana Plaza, a sea of change took place – imposed by Accord and Alliance – where these measures evaporated in this pandemic? As the buyers are forcing into discounts, how do you see this matter?

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan: It is very unfortunate that several initiatives from buyers did not play an appropriate role in this pandemic. Not only safety pacts, even those who were working with compliance issues for workers betterment like BSCI, SEDEX, ICS, Fair wear Foundation along with several international labor associations; did not take effective steps to stop discounts or payments delays. Though workers are the most suffering segment due to late payments or discounts.

Textile Today: In this global pandemic buyers and brands cannot remain sustainable, then how come they force and expect Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers to remain impractically sustainable? What do you think about it?

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan: As this situation is very new to us and we don’t know the ultimate outcome of this pandemic, so it is very difficult to be sustainable.

It is very unfortunate that several initiatives from buyers did not play an appropriate role in this pandemic. Not only safety pacts, even those who were working with compliance issues for workers betterment like BSCI, SEDEX, ICS, Fair wear Foundation along with several international labor associations; didn’t take effective steps to stop discounts or payments delays.

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Director, BKMEA

Even we don’t know- how long we survive if our purchasing countries (Mostly EU & USA) economy do not come to regular points.

Textile Today:  What lacking do we have to prevent such audacious claims by so-called sustainability preaching brands to reduce apparel prices?

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan: First of all, we have to be united as suppliers and need a policy from the government, so none of the suppliers can export goods below the break-even price.

Other than this, we need to create awareness in retail customers (in western countries) about fair purchasing and fair product sourcing.

Textile Today What roles trade bodies like BGMEA and BKMEA can play to enforce brands/retailers to abide by laws in ensuring rightful price?

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan:  Associations have lots of options to do, at least they can ask for a cost sheet from their member to re-check whether manufacturers are working in loss or not.

Textile Today: What should be the new look of the fashion industry in the post-COVID-19 world? And what sustainability approach should the industry take?

Fazlee Shamim Ehsan: I believe future customers will give emphasis on sustainable product and sourcing. Customers are now focusing on the online market. This is the time we should together think about creating an online platform.

And from the industry side, we must be careful about the legal and financial terms, as many big names might go for bankruptcy. Also we have to care more about health issues along with safety and the environment.

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