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South Asian textile lack social compliance

14
Mar '12
More and more multinational garment brands and retailers are monitoring supply chains forcing textile units to comply with social and environmental norms. But manufacturers in the South Asian countries targeting a bigger share of the international trade still lack social compliance, says David Horlock of Intertek Testing Services, a firm that provides safety services to the textile industry.

The Hong-Kong-based Vice-President who looks after global inspection and auditing feels the regional export industry is becoming unsustainable. If the Great Industrial Revolution robbed Europe of its natural environment, haphazard industrialisation could spell doom for the ecosystem of East, warns Horlock whose company has partnered with B2B portal fibre2fashion.com to facilitate global sourcing in South Asian countries. He says, it is important for brands to establish the identity of real factories with real machines and real people.

What are the challenges for Western buyers, while sourcing from South-East Asian destinations?
Global retailers need to ask their suppliers four questions: Who are you? Where are you based? What do you make? And (most importantly) can you be trusted? Trust means credentials in terms of product quality, safety, social compliance, and environmental compliance. Organisations have good information on just 15% of their direct suppliers, and therefore, there are reputational risks in international businesses. One needs to know if the direct suppliers are committed to corporate social responsibility, environment, workplace practices and product quality.

The Indian textile and apparel export industry is on a sticky wicket when it comes to fair trade practices. Child labour and bonded labour Issues often come haunting. Are the brands erring in interpreting the social system?
These are not India-specific problems. Much of the developing world, including China, Bangladesh, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia have similar problems because there are no strong institutions to take charge of enforcement. Hence, there is no one to check exploitation. But over the years, brands have addressed these problems. Working conditions are much better in factories than they were a decade ago. There is an improvement in health & safety, dormitories, toilets, infrastructure, treatment of employees and better wages.

However, a lot is yet to be done by stakeholders like governments, direct importers, employees and the society. While some export-oriented organisations in these destinations lead on compliance because they know that it is the right thing for their business, there are others who do not comply. Increasingly, more businesses are starting to understand that CSR and environmental compliance are going to be the parameters which are here to stay and shall be important if one aspires to capture the wallets of tomorrow's customers.


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