Local apparel sector leaders on Wednesday stressed a unified code of conduct – to be followed by global buyers, so that the factories can save both money and time – now being spent for multiple audits.
Four major issues – workplace safety, wellbeing of workers, environmental sustainability, and transparency – are audited by different brands and retailers in their respective forms, said Md Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
“Different buyers have also asked for different audits, but mainly on those four issues, and exporters have to spend a huge amount of money for those audits.”
As a result, compliance department officials of the RMG units also get confused, as during majority of the audits different buyers ask for the same things, but in different manners, Mr Azim explained.
He said these while speaking at a sideline panel discussion of the Bangladesh Business Forum (BBF) 2022 – held at Radisson Blue Dhaka Water Garden in the city on Wednesday.
The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) programme and the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) jointly organised the event, where Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh was the chief guest.
ILO Bangladesh Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen, IFC Senior Private Sector Specialist Ashani Alles, Switzerland Ambassador to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard, BWB Programme Manager Anis Agung Nugroho, Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments Inspector General Nasir Uddin Ahmed, and Department of Labour Director General Khaled Mamun Chowdhury, among others, also spoke on the occasion.
The BGMEA leader also said 437 factories, covering some 1.2 million workers, are engaged with the ILO’s BWB, where dozens of buyers are also involved.
The BWB, launched in 2014, is a collaboration between the ILO and the IFC. It is a comprehensive programme, bringing together all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions and respect of labour rights for workers, and boost the competitiveness of apparel businesses.
“The BWB can take the lead and formulate a unified code of conduct, which all its brands and retailers can follow,” he added.
Talking at the BBF launching session, BGMEA Director Vidiya Amrit Khan also echoed the same, and said she has to pay US$ 32,000 this year for a number of audits – conducted by different buyers.
Multiple audits mean multiple fees – at a time when both apparel orders and product prices are decreasing, she noted, focusing on removing the burden of multiple audits from the exporters.
She also recommended providing training to the RMG sector’s HR people to make them understand the BWB’s benefits.
Speaking on the occasion, the labour leaders emphasised easing the process of forming trade unions in factories, so that the workers are made aware of their rights and other related issues.
The event also explained the BWB’s strategy for the period of 2022-27, the lessons learnt, and the ways to expand the learning to other sectors.