This month, Fair Wear and The Industry We Want (TIWW) went to Dhaka, Bangladesh for Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA)’s ‘Made in Bangladesh Week’ and the International Apparel Federation (IAF)’s 37th World Fashion Convention, co-organised by the BGMEA and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA). The convention’s theme was “transforming supply chains together” – advocating that the major challenges facing the garment industry can only be truly overcome when all actors in the supply chain join forces to work together. It brought together close to 300 delegates from 15 countries.
TIWW attended the ‘Made in Bangladesh Week’ to engage directly with manufacturers and supply chain partners in one of the world’s most central garment production countries, Bangladesh. The initiative focusses on elevating the voices of manufacturers, as seen through the recently completed second cycle of their purchasing practices metric, which uses anonymous feedback submitted by manufacturers across global supply chains to track the industry’s commercial practices at large. By creating an industry-wide snapshot of the state of purchasing practices, the metric creates the space for meaningful, two-way dialogue on the topic, bringing about more equal partnerships between brand partners and their manufacturers, while holding brands to account. This opportunity in Dhaka, therefore, aligned insights gained through the metric, assessing whether they reflect current sentiments within the industry.
As part of their engagement, TIWW spoke with several relevant supply chain partners at the Dhaka Apparel Expo that highlighted innovative industry developments. The initiative aimed to foster a shared vision and to learn from manufacturers about their current priorities, risks, and best practices. Witnessing local innovations that have the potential to scale industry transformation was incredibly enriching as TIWW serves to create a platform for fostering alliances around industry best practices. These interactions all underlined the common goal of both the initiative and the MSI Working Group of the ‘Common Framework for Responsible Purchasing Practices’ (CFRPP): the need to foster a new balance in the garment industry, where both risks and value are shared more equally along the entire supply chain.
Throughout the week, our Bangladesh Country Manager, Bablur Rahman, TIWW’s Project Manager, Karen Diaz, and Fair Wear’s Project Officer, Milena Gropp, also heard a number of important players in today’s industry transformation voice calls to action that reflect TIWW and Fair Wear’s work. A highlight was hearing Miran Ali, Sustainable Terms of Trade Initiative (STTI)’s Spokesperson, the Vice President of BGMEA, and the Director of RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), speak on STTI’s work to include the voice of manufacturers in ongoing dialogues and policy making for supply chain due diligence – particularly in regards to purchasing practices. Put simply in his own words: “we all want to be treated fairly”.
Another critical moment was when Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Vice President of BKMEA, shared invaluable insights into the key risks in purchasing practices, insisting that a balance needs to be reached across the supply chain. As he made clear, this is only possible when the garment industry ensures that manufacturers’ and workers’ wellbeing is protected completely at all times.
These timely discussions that showcase the importance of working towards responsible purchasing practices mirror our work at Fair Wear and through TIWW, such as our contribution to the CFRPP, a reference point that provides a common language and alignment on what constitutes responsible purchasing practices. The framework emphasises that the responsibility to respect human, environmental, and labour rights in textile supply chains cannot be placed solely on suppliers, but also on their buyers.
As Karen Diaz shared:
“Any discussion on transforming supply chains together needs to address the power imbalances that currently exist between brands and manufacturers. These power imbalances are what TIWW are tackling head on. Our purchasing practices metric allows manufacturers across the globe to rate their brand partners, offering a way to show that brands are holding up their end of the bargain. It was great to be able to convene with manufacturers and brands during ‘Made in Bangladesh Week’ and to discuss how we can jointly work towards responsible purchasing practices, to improve social and environmental conditions for workers via more equal relationships across the supply chain.”
Al in all, by centring the perspective of the Bangladeshi apparel industry, ‘Made in Bangladesh Week’ and the IAF Convention successfully highlighted the importance of collaboration and information exchange at the local level when confronting the key issues affecting the global garment industry today.