By: Dr. Subrata Das
Bangladesh has emerged as a key player in RMG (Ready Made Garment) sector since 1978. Textiles and clothing account for about 85% of total export earnings of Bangladesh. Out of which, 76% comes from the apparel sector which covers the major products of knit and woven shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts, shorts, jackets, sweaters, sports wears and many more casual and fashion items. The sector currently employs approximately 1.5 million workers, mostly females from underprivileged social classes.
The pivotal factor in the apparel industry is the workforce i.e. the sewing operators, the helpers, cutting masters, pattern makers, finishers etc.. Bangladesh is endowed with abundant and cheap labour force that is easily trainable and convertible into semi-skilled and skilled workforce. Existence of such category is one of the advantages that Bangladesh will be enjoying over a considerable period in the context of international trade on clothing.
Quality of goods exported from Bangladesh has always been questioned by the foreign buyers due to lack of experience and awareness of Garment manufacturers associated in the trade. In order to export readymade garments, it is not only the quality parameters which are important towards acceptance of the product as per the intended end use, but also the working environment in which the garments are to be produced, is equally important so that sweatshop concept is totally taken care of and the code of conduct must be stretched towards achieving the objectives of social compliance issues. The core areas of social accountability are, basically, based on the principles of international human rights, local culture and tradition. The prime objective of the system is to protect the human rights in ready made garment industries. Thus, Bangladesh has a stiff challenge ahead to meet the demand of world market.
In this paper some of the essential elements of social accountability pertaining to the apparel sector of Bangladesh have been highlighted.
In todayï¿½s fast changing global market, it is not only the quality of garments which cherished the retailers and manufacturers but also the working environments of the organization wherein the products were produced. Those are equally important to gain and strengthen consumer confidence and to build-up more reliable relationships with vendors. In other words, specific code of conduct that protects the basic human rights of the workforce engaged in the trade is to be respected to satisfy consumers and to add social value to the product. Basic awareness of the social accountability helps to understand and monitor the compliance part of it in protecting the image of a particular brand of product.
In order to do so, the reputed and leading market players in the garment trade have imposed compulsion on the related factories to achieve those objectives as a condition of the export contract. Even the exports were either withheld or cancelled elsewhere in the event of non-compliance to such issues.