Bangladesh overtook China and India in ethical compliance in apparel segment on the back of improved workplace safety following pressure from international inspection and remediation agencies, according to a new survey.
“In particular, ethical scores in Bangladesh rose by an average of 15 percent during the past 12 months,” said AsiaInspection in its first quarterly report of 2018 released last month.
This was likely reflecting the continuous pressure to improve put on Bangladesh's textile and apparel manufacturers by the industry groups formed after the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, it added.
Hong Kong-based AsiaInspection is a global leading quality control and compliance service provider that partners with brands, retailers, and importers around the world to secure, manage and optimise their supply chain.
Particularly, after the collapse, there is no scope to run businesses without ensuring quality and ethics, said Mahmud Hasan Khan, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, while commenting on the survey.
This is because all renowned retailers and brands such as H&M, C&A, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and JC Penney source from Bangladesh in bulk, he told The Daily Star.
More than 80 percent of the garment business is run through strategic partnerships with renowned brands, according to Khan.
He said if any kind of unethical and non-compliant things are found in the supply chain of global apparel business, retailers and brands have to explain it to their customers.
Every form of compliance related to social and environmental issues, production, workers' welfare, workhour and working conditions is maintained in the supply chain, the BGMEA leader said.
“It is not possible to do business unethically now,” he said.
After the Rana Plaza collapse, two platforms were formed: the Accord, the platform of about 200 European retailers, and the Alliance, an agency of 28 North American retailers.
About 90 percent of the inspection and remediation of about 2,200 active garment factories affiliated with the Accord and Alliance have been completed.
Besides, 1,500 small and medium-sized garment factories are being inspected and monitored by the government.
The survey report—Q2 2018 Barometer: China unfazed by global trade stand-off, supply chains face new ethical concerns—is a synopsis of outsourced manufacturing and the quality control services industry.
Overall ethical audit scores in the first quarter offer some hope for improvement after a disappointing performance last year when there was a lower number of critically noncompliant factories.
“Time will show whether this quarter's data represents a positive turnaround, with lasting improvement hinging on regular follow-up and timely corrective action,” said the report.
Ethical scores by industry remain disparate, with homeware in the lead with an average score of 8.3 out of 10, and compliance in bodycare and accessories sectors continuing last year's downward trend.
“Meanwhile, audit scores of textile and apparel manufacturers have been rising since mid-2017, indicating that long-term improvement efforts may be finally bearing fruit.” Nevertheless, AsiaInspection data showed that factories are still plagued by health and safety issues, which were ranked the most pressing concerns in the first quarter, taking over working hours and wage compliance.
AsiaInspection is seeing strong demand for environmental audits, especially in China where brands and manufacturers struggle to comply with the new antipollution laws.
Pollution and waste management accounted for more than 80 percent of non-compliance found by AsiaInspection in the quarter, with more than two-thirds of them classified as major.