Bangladesh occupies a unique and important position in the global apparel production system. It is the world’s 2nd exporter of garments. Its garment industry is by far the largest industrial sector in the country, accounting for over 80% of Bangladesh’ export revenue. As a result, a mutual dependence has emerged between the garment industry in Bangladesh and the global apparel production system. All parties, meaning buyers, manufacturers, governments, labour unions and NGOs alike, have a big interests in a strong apparel industry in Bangladesh.
Following Rana Plaza the attention of the world naturally turned to prevention of such a terrible industrial disaster. Building and fire safety and compliance ruled the talk about Bangladesh. We see that recently the attention is broadening and the discussion is shifting from compliance only to the development of a higher value added industry. This is good because it draws attention to positive developments clearly visible in the Bangladesh garment industry now. And it is good because it draws attention to the most effective ways to improve competitiveness and at the same time improve labour and environmental conditions.
Apart from a large amount of work on fire and building safety (with 63% of all safety issues reported or verified as fixed) the apparel industry in Bangladesh is clearly investing in upgrading. The Bangladeshi apparel industry has already been diversifying away into higher value added products such as swimwear, denim, formalwear and outerwear. And numerous factories have invested heavily to become model factories with Leed certification and world class working environments. The drive that is found in the Bangladeshi garment industry to grow and to improve is often exemplary.
IAF has been contributing to the industrial development in Bangladesh through a series of projects, including an EU funded project, the support of a large conference in Dhaka and the building of a unique training course. In this special edition newsletter, IAF would like to highlight the positive case of apparel industrial development in Bangladesh. It is important to look beyond Rana Plaza to keep a momentum of industrial improvement that goes much further than building safety. And it holds some interesting lessons that can probably be applied to other cases of industrial development in our industry in other countries.