“Made in Bangladesh” can stand with its head held high, enjoying full respect by its brand image. Sounds utopian? Then the history of the label “Made in Germany” might be highly encouraging to us.
“The Made in Germany” label is not a German invention. It was introduced when the British Merchandise Marks Act came into effect in August 1887. Its purpose was to warn consumers of cheap and low-quality imported goods and to ensure that all foreign products which could potentially threaten the success of British products were branded with a label. It was an attempt to prompt British buyers to “Buy British.” Each trading nation that wanted to do business in Great Britain had to label its products with their country of origin.
But the plan backfired. The label “Made in Germany” ultimately developed into a sign of quality and the labeled products eventually started selling like hot cakes. The quality started speaking, and when quality speaks, nothing can be a barrier.
A few years back, no one in Bangladesh could imagine that seven out of the ten top rated platinum green factories in the world would be in Bangladesh. Moreover, after the Rana Plaza incident, many of us would not have believed if someone had said that less than two per cent of factories in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector are critically vulnerable through the assessments of Accord and Alliance.
And just maybe only a decade back, who would have believed that one day, the workers of RMG and textile industries of Bangladesh would use mobile apps to file their grievances, submit leave applications, give their opinions in surveys, learn about labour laws, etc.? At that time, who could have imagined that workers would have their own bank account for their salaries and buy their groceries on credit and at a cheaper price from fair price shops provided by the factory? To some extent, all this is not a dream, but reality nowadays. These are the best examples set by the industry and for the industry. But they still remain as only examples, since the majority of the factories need to go a long way to make it a full picture for the whole industry. In fact, neither Rana Plaza nor all these positive examples give the full picture of the whole industry. The more we acknowledge this, the sooner we take action, and the better we can weave a positive image for our label “Made in Bangladesh”.
Certainly, the image of the label “Made in Bangladesh” would further improve, if all the actors involved join forces for qualitative changes such as.
- Labour laws are amended because the actors in the industry feel the necessity to better the conditions of the industry and the workers, not because of any external desire or expectation.
- A system is in place through which the minimum wage for workers is revised on a regular basis and certainly on its own.
- Due to the social responsibilities of the entrepreneurs towards the environment, the wind of change turning the factories green continues to flow over the thousands of factories greening themselves and the whole industry moves towards green initiatives, making it a part of their business plans.
- Greening processes are not only limited to green buildings but also ensure green production.
- Not only the owners, but also their workers nurture a sense of belongingness towards their factories as if they were also owners – then true industrial relations are sewn.
- The workers can see their money in every single up and down of the needles while they sew.
Some leaders, as industry icons and role models, acknowledge the challenges and at the same time prove their firm commitment to overcome those challenges by action, not words.
All this is only possible when the industry has set crystal clear goals, to be achieved by spelling out every activity against why, what, how, where and when in a comprehensive and pragmatic strategy and road map. Actors not only acknowledge their respective roles but also share the responsibilities amongst themselves through establishing a number of shared responsibility cooperation models for sustainable management of interventions in the areas of social, environmental and inclusive business. Workers also play their active and constructive roles in the sustainability monitoring of the industry.
In order to support the textile, RMG and leather industries in Bangladesh to implement this vision, the project Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES) has been working through its partners from public and private sectors as well as with the civil society. PSES is a joint project of the Governments of Bangladesh and Germany.
It is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh. As a result, the main actors in the textile, RMG and leather sectors have increased capacity and find it in their interest to take up shared responsibilities as well as make business cases to pursue a course of sustainable and inclusive economic growth for the country.
For more information:
Md. Manjur Morshed
Senior Advisor, GIZ-Bangladesh