The Battle for a Safer Bangladesh Goes On
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the arguments, there is no doubt that all brands face a massive challenge in improving factory conditions in the country. The combined groups only will be inspecting some 2,000 of the estimated 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh, with many of the others thought to have even worse conditions. Despite the difficulties they collectively face, Dara O’Rourke, a workplace expert at the University of California, Berkeley, put the situation in perspective.
“The accord and the alliance are taking on the lowest end of a low-road industry,” O’Rourke said, according to The New York Times. “They’re trying to bring up the worst garment conditions in the world. What they’re doing is really, really hard.”
Another report, this time from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), highlights internal tensions at Nike, a major player in the manufacture of garments around the world. The article examines the conflict between the production team, which has a priority to cut manufacturing costs, and the corporate responsibility team, which has a mission to improve safety. It’s a fascinating read, detailing the long-standing and ongoing effort of the company’s management team to strike a balance between these often conflicting priorities.
It’s the last part of the article though that brings into stark relief the size of the challenge facing companies sourcing products from factories in the region. The Wall Street Journal reports that Nike’s code of conduct posters were taken down the day after the company pulled out of one Bangladesh garment factory. Another buyer had been found whose margins dictated that the factory would need to double its overtime hours.
“They want their clothes on time no matter what,” the factory manager said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We had to tell the workers that the new buyer has a new mindset, and that means different rules."
Jeff is executive director of the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Prior to that, he was responsible for developing safe and compliant brand merchandise for Michelin. He has worked with brands in publishing, consumer products, broadcasting and film for over 30 years. Follow Jeff on Twitter, and QCA on Facebook.