Coming together for sustainable recovery of Vietnam's garment and footwear sector

In October 2021, Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) and the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association (LEFASO), with the support of Fair Wear, CNV Internationaal, CDI, IDH, and Care International Vietnam, successfully organised a virtual four-party dialogue on “Coming together for the sustainable recovery of Vietnam garment and footwear industries”. 

Representatives were present from a variety of governmental departments, enterprises, trade unions, and brands. The stakeholders involved in the event evaluated the impacts of COVID-19 on enterprises and workers in the garment and footwear industry in Vietnam. In front of a 250-strong audience, they discussed what it will take to sustainably recover the sector.

The fourth COVID-19 wave in Vietnam, which commenced in April 2021, has had a much more severe impact than previous waves. The pandemic has directly affected industrial zones, causing thousands of workers to become infected with the virus and suspended production of thousands of enterprises. 

Challenges like inconsistent COVID-19 restrictions, order cancellations, late delivery penalties have put enterprises at risk of bankruptcy and led to workers losing their jobs and incomes, becoming at risk of poverty and mental health problems. 

In the opening speech, Mr Iwan Rutjens, First Secretary, Royal Netherlands Embassy in Vietnam, reaffirmed the crucial role of social dialogue in recovery, emphasising that a “sustainable textile value chain is a blueprint to the future and healthy recovery because sustainable business models contribute to addressing the various challenges within the industry. But the transition requires systematic change and asks for collaboration”.

Representatives of each of the four organising parties pointed out the solutions and recommendations for sustainable recovery of Vietnam garment and footwear industries:

  • On behalf of employees, the Institute of Worker and Trade union put forward 3 requests (i) Job security and maintain work and relevant benefits as before the pandemic; (ii) continue to provide financial supports for the workers in the difficult time: (iii) all the stakeholders, especially employers and brands need to take care of physical and mental health of workers.
  • On the business side, the Vietnamese textile and footwear associations requested the brands to: (i) share with Vietnam suppliers in terms of both economic and experiences(ii) Keep orders in Vietnam; (iii) support Vietnam in developing the strategy of sustainable development and building the recommendations to government. 
  • From the Government side, the representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Labour took into account the comments and recommendations of all stakeholders. They reaffirmed that they are quickly revising the policies to remove the barriers and will issue the new support programs to create conditions for enterprises and workers following the Government strategy shifting from Zero COVID-19 to safe and flexible adaptation to recovery and promoting economic development.”
  • Representing importing countries, Amcham and Eurocham requested to continue supporting the Government’s COVID-19 dual policy goals to protect both lives and livelihoods as Vietnam adjust to “living safely with the virus”. They want to partner for a safe reopening for a sustainable recovery. Amcham and Eurocham, together with the OECD and other Foreign Business Associations, will promote Responsible Supply Chains and Resiliency in Garment Supply Chains, particularly with a more global emphasis on ethical supply chains.