Bangladesh can serve as an example of a secure global supply chain, offering a model that countries around the world should follow. It’s been nearly seven years since the factory tragedy at Rana Plaza, killing more than 1,100 employees, mostly young women, and injuring 2,500 others.
More broadly, there is a need for fresh approaches to address labor rights in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Buyers need to acknowledge how their own business models – which put a premium on lowest cost and fastest turnaround – often exacerbate pressures on local factory owners and harm workers. These global brands must also move away from the punitive policing model that currently places blame on local suppliers whenever factory auditors spot a problem.
The readymade garment industry in Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest and a major supplier to Europe. Bangladesh’s exports of apparel have more than tripled since 2008, with exports from the clothing sector accounting for 82 per cent of all country exports. This tremendous growth has helped fuel the economic development of the country and since 2000 has halved the level of severe poverty to zero. Instead, there is a need for a more collaborative model, one that emphasizes greater communications and cooperation between buyers and suppliers, and shares responsibility for the well-being of workers.