• Posted on 2017-06-20 17:50:06 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Green Grade is committed to support and implement the ten fundamental principles of the UNGC

    Green Grade has joined in April 2014 the United Nations Global Compact - a major United Nations initiative that encourages the integration of social, environmental and governance principles in business activities. Our formal admission was acknowledged by the UN on its website, here.  Green Grade is supporting the ten fundamental principles relating to human rights, labour standards, the environment and the fight against corruption, as laid out in the framework of the United Nations Global Compact.

    Green Grade supports the United Nations Human Rights Declaration and will strive to help end the exploitation of children in the workplace. We ensure that workers' rights are respected and actively oppose all forms of discrimination. Furthermore, Green Grade supports the fight against corruption and has a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. The anti-corruption policy is set out in the company’s Staff Handbook and Code of Practice and it applies to all employees, officers and directors and its subsidiaries worldwide, as well as governing our relations with clients and suppliers.

  • Posted on 2017-01-29 14:10:38 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    UpSkill reduces audit fatigue and raises ethical and safety knowledge, with no disruption to factories' production

    The Learning platform UpSkill, designed to raise managers’ compliance awareness, has been selected by leading UK retailer, John Lewis, for a pilot to train its homeware factories in India. UpSkill provides verifiably increased awareness and understanding towards the Ethical Trading Initiative base code. What made UpSkill the retailer's solution of choice was its seamless integration and the fact that the analytics gathering across the factories would not disrupt production. 

    Factories were selected across a range of product categories including jewellery, handbags and lighting.

    The training is delivered through a tablet device which is used by each participant and contains all the learning materials. The managers who are nominated for the programme create their own unique profile and begin working through the material, with the flexibility to fit learning in and around their production schedule. Once confident in their understanding, they take an exam to gain a certificate. As the training is accompanied by detailed analytics reports, John Lewis will be able to see the level of knowledge and gaps. (Source: John Lewis - 2017 Transparency in Supply Chains Statement and Human Rights Progress Report, p. 9)

    UpSkill is available online and through android tablets.It includes topics such as workers' rights, hygiene, safe factory conditions, and effective management. The user-friendly learning platform does not require any prior knowledge of compliance. Users can access the course at their convenience, and a customer help centre is available for guidance. Participants who use the tablet version are entitled for a certificate upon a successful completion of the course. 




     

  • Posted on 2016-11-16 02:13:11 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    The Learning and Perfomance Institute: clear evidence that the skills transferred during the UpScale deployment are being refreshed and experienced in practice

    Green Grade's automated content delivery platform, UpScale, which was used for a safety programme in Bangladesh, triggered positive behavioral changes among workers. According to a new evaluation and monitoring report by the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI), published on 1 November 2016, 'behaviour change has been achieved in terms of health and safety awareness... UpScale deployment produced a risk avoidance benefit. [There] is clear evidence of skills gain, and that the skills transferred during the UpScale deployment are being refreshed and experienced in practice'.

    UpScale was developed through an R&D grant awarded by the UK government's Department for International Development, and trained illiterate and semi-skilled workers on safety requirements. It uses accelerated learning techniques – that compress messages through instructional animation clips and verify knowledge transfer with audience response technology. No internet is required, factory downtime is minimal, and the video clips are narrated in the local language to account for literacy issues.

    The training programme tackled the relatively mundane subject matter of work safety through a storyline of engaging characters and the dangers they face in their workplace. The product retains ease of use suitable for participants with limited or no learning or literacy skills, offering an immediate on-screen feedback that confirms the level of knowledge transfer. The results were astonishing: with a teaching output of 500 participants per session, the UpScale programme trained about 5000 people in 10 working days, with a verified participation rate of 96% and a 121% knowledge retention score after 6 months (as confirmed by the Learning and Performance Institute, here). 

    According to the report, 'For each of the three subject areas (fire, electrical, structural), UpScale developed two types of capability – awareness (the ability to identify a potential problem) and reaction (the ability to take avoiding action in order to minimise the risk). Drilling down further into the retention data, we can see that skills development/retention was higher in the area of reaction and that highlights that there is a significant benefit'.

    While UpScale was predominately developed to train production workers, the LPI report has noted that it may well have a much broader appeal: 'Upscale is a content agnostic infrastructure that could be applied to a vast array of different content – both compliance and performance related'.

  • Posted on 2016-11-16 00:37:59 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    University of York's report on UpSkill, Green Grade's learning and testing app, highlights its proven effectiveness

    GreenGrade's learning and testing app, UpSkill, which was launched in Bangladesh as part of the UK government's TGVCI programme, has increased the awareness of ethical compliance among 91% of the participants - according to an independent evaluation study by the University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute. 80% of the platform users stated that the UpSkill training benefited them personally. 

    UpSkill aimed at increasing the awareness of ethical compliance in ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh through an online self-paced learning process. The new learning process was tailored towards ensuring worker welfare and safety through building ethical compliance capacity at the factory floor. The aim was to address the gap in health and safety knowledge experienced within most middle and newly promoted managers.

    The executive summary of the study's main findings is available here

  • Posted on 2015-12-03 09:22:16 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Green Grade partners with US-based Turning Technologies to deliver a superior capacity building experience

    Green Grade Solutions agreed to collaborate with US-based Turning Technologies LLC, as part of a new project that develops a learning platform based on Turning’s Audience Response Technology. TT is a global leader in interactive learning aides, with 65% share of the global market according to research by Futuresource, an IT consultancy. Green Grade's system will provide an immersive, dynamic learning experience to a large group of employees or students. Offering instant verification of participants’ knowledge and real time adaptation of content based on their responses, the new platform can train up to 1000 people at any given time.

    The system is designed to increase understanding and make the learning process, as a peer group experience, more engaging and fun. It ensures that new material is effectively transferred and mastered in fairly short time.

    According to scientific research, use of an audience response technology leads to a 40% increase in retention of material 30 days after the initial training session, compared with traditional methods. According to learners, response technology made material more engaging (87%), motivational (63%) and enhanced learning (73%). In another research, 91% of learners experienced a deeper learning as a consequence of the discussion that followed the response system questions while 70% of learners agreed that they were more likely to participate because of the anonymity of the response system. 74% of learners agreed that the use of response technology was preferable to just PowerPoint based lectures.

     

    Sources:

    Schackow, E.T., Chavez, M., Loya, L. & Friedman, M. (2004). Audience Response System: Effect on Learning in Family Medical Residents. Family Medicine, 36(7), 496-504.

    Hall, R.H. Collier, H.L., Thomas, M.L. & Hilgers, M.G. (2005). A Student Response System for Increasing Engagement, Motivation and Learning in High Enrolment Lectures. Paper presented at the Eleventh Americas Conference on Information Systems, Omaha, NE.

    Williams, J.B. (2003). 'Learning By Remote Control': Exploring the Use of an Audience Response System as a Vehicle for Content Delivery. In G. Crisp, D. Thiele, I. Scholten, S. Barker and J. Baron (Eds), Interact, Integrate, Impact: Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. Adelaide, 7-10 December 2003.

    Credit: Turning Technologies

  • Posted on 2015-12-03 06:47:58 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    The Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) has awarded the industry-standard Learning Technologies Accreditation to Green Grade Solutions, signifying the high standards achieved by Green Grade in developing and delivering its solutions

    Green Grade Solutions was awarded in September 2015 an Accredited Learning Technologies Provider certificate by the Learning and Performance Institute (thelpi.org). The LPI’s accreditation report praised Green Grade’s innovative platform, UpSkill, and noted that it offers an ‘outstanding USP‘ as an ‘integrated delivery and testing platform’. The report added that Green Grade has created a new and compelling value proposition which is ahead of current market trends.

    The accreditation reviews the value proposition that the accredited organisation presents to its key stakeholders, and verifies that the organisation is able, through its processes, work-flow, resources, staff, and practices to deliver against that proposition. It focused on the deployment of technology for learning and the way in which it is positioned within an increasingly competitive market. The LPI accreditation is given to outstanding providers that embrace an innovative approach to address the challenges of their clients.

    Accreditation with the LPI positions Green Grade as leaders in the field of Learning & Development and is testament to the Company’s commitment to maintain the LPI standards. As an Accredited Learning Technology provider, Green Grade will deliver against the LPI’s recognised Code of Practice.

    Commenting on the accreditation, Managing Director of Green Grade Solutions, Dr Sharon Sadeh said: 'We are truly thrilled to have the endorsement by LPI. It reflects Green Grade’s tireless efforts to apply the most innovative approaches in some of the world’s most challenging and unforgiving environments.  It shows our commitment to work closely with our clients to maximise the value-add they can derive from deploying our solutions, while breaking new ground to achieve our clients’ performance goals.'

  • Posted on 2015-05-21 11:39:18 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    by Prof. Dr. Engr. Ayub Nabi Khan, Pro-Vice Chancellor, BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT)

            

    (Pictures taken from the infomation sessions organised at BUFT on March 16. Left: UpSkill Project Manager Maher Anjum and Prof. Dr. Engr. Ayub Nabi Khan. Right: some of the attendees)

    The tag “Made in Bangladesh” brought fame & glory for the country, making it an attractive brand across the globe. Though there are so many hurdles, the country with its limited resources has been maintaining 6% annual average GDP growth rate and has brought about remarkable achievements in most of the millennium development goals set by the United Nations.

    It is a matter of great interest to many that the economy of Bangladesh continues to grow at a steady pace. Now we are targeting the achievement of US$50 billion export to enter the middle-income country status by 2021.

    The industry that has been playing dominant role to rebuilding the country and its economy is none other than the readymade garment (RMG) industry, which is now the single biggest export earner for Bangladesh, accounting for 81% of total export earnings of the country.

    Despite the phenomenal growth of our RMG industry, and its bright prospects, challenges are there. One of the biggest challenges currently faced by our RMG industry is to ensure workplace safety and better working conditions for the millions of garment workers.

    Two major accidents have brought the issue of workplace safety to the fore and led all stakeholders to act accordingly. Following the unfortunate incidents, Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza disaster, various platforms such as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and National Plan of Action have been formed to improve building and fire safety of Bangladesh’s garment industry.

    According to the study, the US-based fashion companies are expected to boost their sourcing from Bangladesh in the next two years. McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, described Bangladesh as the next hot spot in apparel sourcing. The renowned firm forecasts export-value growth of 7-9% annually.

    Education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world. The importance of education in our life cannot be ignored at any cost. Education is the only way to get knowledge and also helps to develop healthy surroundings. This concept is even more important in order to keep a sustainable development of our RMG Sector - keeping in mind that every workplace is compliant in terms of building on fire safety standards and work place safety.

    It is very important to remain strategically competitive and ahead in the global business of the RMG sector knowledge of social and ethical compliance across all teams in garment factories. This will ultimately reduce the risk of non-compliances, which will result in lower cost of audits, production and performance knowledge management system. A knowledge-based community can only ensure comfortable exchanges of business interest by linking the industry components.

    We believe that there is no other alternative but to build a knowledge-based society through education. To improve the long term competitiveness of the garment industry it is urgent for Bangladesh to improve its human resources development - a cadre of qualified experienced HR professionals who can support enterprises to develop skilled motivated workforces.

    Green Grade solutions Ltd. is a leading organization that innovates with new approaches on social and ethical compliance in the garment industry. UpSkill is its latest development. This eLearning platform will give us opportunity to learn social and ethical compliance standards in the garment industry, connecting industry stakeholders such as factories, buyers and supply chain partners. This will help to build an effective network for improving knowledge for the sustainable development of the vibrant RMG Sector in Bangladesh.

    Prof. Dr. Engr. Ayub Nabi Khan
    C. Text. FTI, Manchester, U.K.
    Pro-Vice Chancellor
    BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT)
    S.R Tower, 105, Uttara Model Town, Uttara, Dhaka

  • Posted on 2015-05-20 12:13:37 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    By Victor Serrano

    After the wake-up call of Rana Plaza disaster, much attention has been placed into the working conditions in the clothing industry. Despite the difficulty of the task, national and international measures are being implemented in order to make the garment industry more secure and sustainable, requiring cooperation from every stakeholder involved in the sector (factory owners and managers, national and international governments, NGO’s, trade unions, global brands and consumers).

    Everybody has a role to play in order to transform the clothing industry for the better. We, as consumers, are faced with trade-offs when it comes to purchasing our clothes. Is it environmentally friendly? Is the company respecting human and animal rights? What is the company’s sustainability policy? At the moment, consumers experience much difficulty on how to assess the ethicality of a piece of garment, provided that we have the willingness to pay for it[1]. Sadly, little has changed in consumer behaviour since the Rana Plaza tragedy[2].

    According to a study by YouGov, the majority of consumers believe that brands should improve transparency regarding working conditions of their production factories[3]. Three quarters of respondents stated that they would be willing to pay 5% extra for their clothes if there was a guarantee that workers were being paid fairly and worked in safe conditions[4]. However, it seems that sustainability concerns are put aside when purchasing clothes, creating a gap between consumers’ attitude and their actual behaviour.  

    New brands promoting ethical fashion are growing fast, however they still remain a very small segment of the global apparel market[5], and so do consumers who care about ethical aspects when purchasing clothes[6]. It is bewildering that a significant proportion of consumers state that their clothes have been probably made under unacceptable working conditions[7]. Clearer information is needed in order for them to make more informed choices so that the existing attitude-behaviour gap begins to narrow.

    As consumers, we may feel powerless when compared to the influence that governments and global retailers have upon the regulation of garment supply chains. However, are we really powerless? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe that the most effective way to implement change is by creating social movements powerful enough to catch the attention of global industry players. People should become involved in national and international campaigns that promote sustainability in the fashion industry in order to make a difference. Let your favourite brand know that you are watching them[8].

    As Emma Watson said: “I think it’s important that I’m accountable for the choices I make and understand they have serious consequences”. Consumer awareness and curiosity about the origin of our clothes needs to increase, as nowadays it seems like we take them for granted.

    Thanks to the development of social media, the general public is becoming aware of supply chain infractions much quicker than ever before, as information flows more freely across countries[9]. In ten years there will not be place for unethical companies or suppliers to hide[10].

    Some people opt to boycott companies or industries, however I believe that boycotting Bangladesh-made clothing is not the right move to make, as 4 million Bangladeshi work in the industry and most of the times, the precious income brought by them can be the difference between going to bed with a full or empty belly, pay a medical bill or send kids to school.

    Social movements such as the Fashion Revolution, The Clean Clothes Campaign, or Labour Behind the Label - whose aim is to achieve a more sustainable fashion industry by promoting transparency in the supply chain[11], improving working conditions[12], raising public awareness, pressuring companies, supporting workers and lobbying governments and policy makers[13]- are just an example of how committed consumers can contribute to make a difference by the use of social media. Consumers can also contribute to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust, as it is open to anyone willing to donate money to the victims of the tragedy[14]. The Ethical Fashion Forum, the Ethical Consumer, the World Fair Trade Organisation, Traidcraft, TRAID or Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign are some more examples of organisations that promote sustainability in the clothing and other industries. Check them out!

    Unfortunately, a label telling you whether a piece of clothing has been ethically produced does not exist yet, and it’s not looking like coming to the market soon. In the meantime, and as a suggestion to those who want to make a difference, consumers can look for the labels highlighted on the table below, which indicate the efforts made towards improving working conditions in the supply chain.


    [1] New Age, ‘After Rana Plaza, What Can We Do for World’s Apparel Workers?’.

    [2] FairBuy, ‘Rana Plaza & After - What HAS Changed’.

    [3] The Huffington Post UK, ‘Most Fashion Consumers “Would Pay More” For Ethical Clothing Production’.

    [4] Ibid.

    [5] Counterfire, ‘Rana Plaza’.

    [6] BBMG, ‘One Year After Rana Plaza Collapse Consumer Habits Remain Unchanged| Brand Innovation for the New Consumer’.

    [7] Ibid.

    [8] Vogue News, ‘How The World Has Changed Since Rana Plaza’.

    [9] Gifford and Ansett, ‘The Guardian. 10 Things That Have Changed since the Bangladesh Factory Collapse’.

    [10] Ibid.

    [11] Fashion Revolution, ‘Mission : Fashion Revolution’.

    [12] Clean Clothes Campaign, ‘Clean Clothes Campaign Website’.

    [13] Labour Behind the Label, ‘Labour Behind the Label Website’.

    [14] Refinery 29, ‘One Year Since Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza Collapse — Has Anything Changed?’.

    [15] Ethical Consumer, ‘Reader’s Survey’.

     

    REFERENCES

    BBMG. ‘One Year After Rana Plaza Collapse Consumer Habits Remain Unchanged| Brand Innovation for the New Consumer’. BBMG | Brand Innovation for the New Consumer | New York, 16 April 2014. http://bbmg.com/news/bangladesh-title/.

    Clean Clothes Campaign. ‘Clean Clothes Campaign Website’. Cover. Accessed 22 October 2014. http://www.cleanclothes.org/.

    Counterfire. ‘Rana Plaza: It Is Not Consumers Who Have Blood on Their Hands’. Counterfire, 20 April 2014. http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/opinion/17174-rana-plaza-it-is-not-consumers-who-have-blood-on-their-hands.

    Ethical Consumer. ‘Reader’s Survey’, June 2014. http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/portals/0/flipbooks/issue148/.

    FairBuy. ‘Rana Plaza & After - What HAS Changed’. FairBuy.org, April 2014. http://www.fairbuy.org/rana-plaza-after/.

    Fashion Revolution. ‘Mission : Fashion Revolution’. Accessed 22 October 2014. http://fashionrevolution.org/about/mission/.

    Gifford, James, and Sean Ansett. ‘The Guardian. 10 Things That Have Changed since the Bangladesh Factory Collapse’. The Guardian, 2 April 2014, sec. Guardian Sustainable Business. http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/bangladesh-factory-collapse-10-things-changed.

    Labour Behind the Label. ‘Labour Behind the Label Website’. Accessed 22 October 2014. http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/.

    New Age. ‘After Rana Plaza, What Can We Do for World’s Apparel Workers?’, 5 September 2014. http://newagebd.net/45819/after-rana-plaza-what-can-we-do-for-worlds-apparel-workers/.

    Refinery 29. ‘One Year Since Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza Collapse — Has Anything Changed?’. Refinery29, April 2014. http://www.refinery29.com/2014/04/65418/rana-plaza-anniversary.

    The Huffington Post UK. ‘Most Fashion Consumers “Would Pay More” For Ethical Clothing Production’. The Huffington Post UK, 17 September 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/12/london-fashion-week-ethic_n_3914479.html.

    Vogue News. ‘How The World Has Changed Since Rana Plaza’. Vogue UK, 1 April 2014. http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2014/04/01/bangladesh-rana-plaza-anniversary-fashion-revolution-day.

     

  • Posted on 2015-04-23 15:54:28 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Two years ago, the world had to wake up to the news of more than a thousand workers losing their lives for us to reaffirm the unsustainable business model of garment supply chains.

    After the Tazreen factory fire and the collapse of the Rana Plaza, an international movement was developed to support the Ready Made Garment (RMG) industry to reach a state where it can sustain itself without risking workers’ conditions.

    A global response emerged and initiatives were launched, aiming at fixing the industry. But it has been proven way harder that we ever imagined. This blog will feature the progress made so far as well as some of the innovations using technology that have arisen to improve workers’ conditions.

    Two years of progress in the Bangladeshi RMG sector

    The creation of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety was the response from retailers across the world to start tackling the problems of the Bangladeshi garment industry. The ILO Programme on Improving Working Conditions in the RMG sector was put in place to support the commitments made by the Government of Bangladesh. Based on the results of extensive consultations, the programme adopted an approach that has five vital components:

    • Building and Fire Safety Assessment
    • Strengthen Labour Inspection & Support Fire and Building Inspection
    • Build Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) awareness, capacity and systems
    • Rehabilitation and skills training for victims

    To date, significant efforts have been put in place and some improvement has been seen in the past two years. A quick reflection of the numbers can be seen below[1].

    Despite all the progress seen, many challenges still lie ahead, namely remediation plans, capacity building of institutional bodies, or the creation of an employee injury insurance, just to name a few.

    Bangladesh RMG industry – 2 years of progress

    Notwithstanding the current situation, the HSBC Trade Confidence Index regards Bangladesh as a popular sourcing destination with growth potential. According to ITC Trade Map, Bangladesh’s RMG growth during 2013-2014 was 18%, with a growth of 13% plus even after the Rana Plaza tragedy (according to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies -BIDS).[2]

    Does this mean that Rana Plaza will be a forgotten lesson? According to a discussion held at BBC’s In the Balance[3], the landscape has substantially changed, establishing a starting point to start building consumer awareness, as this situation needs to be tackled from many fronts. Orsola de Castro (founder of the Fashion Revolution Day) states in the debate that things haven’t changed much in terms of consumption and sourcing since the collapse of the Rana Plaza. It’s not only the consumers who demand fast fashion, but also the brands that promote it. This type of consumerism has created a generation that do not understand, nor differentiate, between quality of product and quality of working conditions.

    Price, as the one of the most important factors to consider in the fast fashion movement, creates unhealthy competition and a race to the bottom, affecting the most vulnerable stakeholder group in the supply chain – the workers.

    How to reach workers – Innovative solutions involving technology

    As a result of the accelerated industry expansion in Bangladesh, capacity building in terms of knowledge delivered at a faster rate is required. Regulation may be the way to implement certain measures, but that is a long and slow path.

    The solution comes as a two-way road. On one hand we need to see a proactive approach from global brands towards trying to take full control over their supply chains, be able to assess the impact of their activities upon workers, and act accordingly. On the other hand we need garment workers and managers to demand accountability and fair working conditions. However, how can one fight for their rights when you don’t know them?

    Innovative initiatives are reaching the market aiming at improving the current working conditions with the use of technology. They normally come for free with the aim of benefiting garment workers. We have compiled a few innovations that are helping the garment industry.

    • GreenGrade’s UpSkill

    UpSkill is an eLearning platform that allows mid-level managers across all departments at garment factories to learn about social and ethical compliance through engaging multiple questions. All the questions are based on the UpSkill Handbook, which can be accessed through the platform at no cost for those managers who look for answers on the spot. At the moment, the platform is being implemented in Bangladesh, aiming at boosting knowledge transfer of social and ethical compliance to increase the industry standards in the long run. The success comes when managers learn how to detect potential dangerous situations and prevent accidents from happening, spreading the knowledge on best practices.

    Request a ‘Free Access Code’ from GreenGrade to practice with UpSkill on the following link: https://upskill.greengrade.co.uk/#free

    • ILO’s LISA App

    The Labour Inspection System Application (LISA) Project is a piece of software that allows labour inspectors to fill in reports on-site with the advantage of attaching pictures of non-compliances. LISA comes as a built-in application for tablets. It not only eases the process of filling reports, but also improves the administration of the Labour Ministry as all the data records from employers and employees can be retrieved by only typing their names Sri Lanka is the first country in South Asia to use this platform.

    • Better Factories Cambodia& ILO’s Labour Law App and KamkaoChhnoeum

    KamkaoChhnoeum is a scheme that delivers information about labour law and personal health to garment workers as well as records information about worker’s condition in factories. It can be used with any kind of phone by dialling a 4-digit number. The Labour Law App is a little bit more sophisticated. Aimed at smartphones, this application includes a guide to the Labour Law as well as quizzes to measure workers’ understanding, photos of good and bad practices and an option to calculate maternity leave payments.

    • Bangladesh’ telephone helpline for garment workers

    The Department of Inspections for Factories and Establishments will run the helpline, which has been established with the support of the ILO and the Norwegian government. This is only a pilot and will target workers of a specific region. Should the scheme prove successful, it will be spread nationwide. Calls received by the helpline will be logged and forwarded either to DIFE, the Fire Service and Civil Defence Department or the Directorate of Labour for resolution, according to the statement. The caller will then be contacted with a response. The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety also set up telephone 'helpline' for garment workers last year. 

    Other interesting initiatives include:

    • Supply Link’s software, which allows factories to create a profile where they can input data on particular areas such as factory operations or environmental and social performance, allowing the building of trust with customers over time by sharing relevant information with them.
    • ELEVATE’s eLearning lessons catering stakeholders along international supply chains.

    All these initiatives need to be accompanied by the willingness to implement them by the stakeholders who are aimed at; from factory workers, mid and senior factory managers, to suppliers, global brands and even the final consumer. Without willingness to improve and make things better, none of the above initiatives would have taken off.

    The problem of social non-compliances does not have a one size fits all solution, but requires multiple solutions from different angles to fuse together towards providing a combined, effective and integrated solution. All the above innovative initiatives focus mainly on just that, building the necessary knowledge and providing the necessary tools to start a foundational change that will improve global supply chains by increasing awareness on essential areas for workers and factories to improve their conditions.

  • Posted on 2015-04-07 14:47:29 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) KEYNOTE SPEECH, 25 March 2015

    Dr Sharon Sadeh, Founder and Managing Director, Green Grade Solutions

    Research Assistance: Victor Serrano

    Prelude: social compliance – a reality check

    Social compliance, the targeted global endeavour to ensure that safe and non-exploitative practices are maintained in a workplace, has been established for more than 10 years now. Yet, factories don’t follow best practices. They don’t even bother following the simple ones.

    Consider this picture, taken by GreenGrade at the makeshift morgue that was set up in a school yard near the Rana Plaza disaster site, in Savar, Bangladesh.

    What does this picture tell us? A group of bereaving people carry placards with photos of their loved ones? It tells us a story of agony and anguish, as their loved ones - children, brothers, sisters - who worked at the collapsed Rana Plaza complex, had never worn their workers’ ID Cards. It was therefore virtually impossible to recognise them when their bodies were retrieved from the rubble. Without timely DNA identification, hundreds of victims were buried in nondescript mass graves. This episode illustrates, once again, that social compliance in the workplace is not a nice to have, but an essential component in disaster prevention. 

    Are we getting better in responsible sourcing or merely saying so?

    Supply chains are now more complex than ever. Multinational corporations expand their borders to reach new markets to cater the needs and tastes of consumers that are now more demanding than ever. Let’s take the example of the London Fashion Week, where the latest designs shown on a catwalk can be reproduced and sold in high street shops within three weeks [1]. The Fast Fashion movement allows consumers to have seasonal products in no time. However, do these practices go hand in hand with a transparent and sustainable supply chain?

    Three major industrial accidents in the past couple of years have brought the garment supply chain under international scrutiny.  They were attributed mainly to poor working conditions and lack of basic compliance processes.  The Baldi factory fire in Pakistan (September 2012), the Tazreen factory fire (Nov 2012) and the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh (April 2013) – have collectively claimed the lives of more than 1,500 workers, with many thousands of injured.

    Many industries initiatives have been created – there are more than a 1000 codes of conduct in existence, and hundreds of thousands of factory audits are carried out every year.  A huge ethical audit industry has grown as a result, worth $50bn globally according one estimate. In response to the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, international safety initiatives such as the Accord and the Alliance were created, bringing together international brands in an effort to fight and overcome fire safety and structural integrity problems in factories, and publicly publishing their audit visit findings. This was a great step towards a more transparent supply chain. Yet, the drive towards behavioural change did not have the desired effect. Many accidents still happen, plenty of abuses and fraudulent, illegal actions are taking place every day, under the nose of brands and retails, and often with their tacit knowledge.

    We have collected some headlines over the past 3 months, in the period January-March 2015. They all made headlines in the local press but didn’t catch the attention of the international media [2]. We looked at nine countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, India and Italy), and found that the majority of accidents happened in Bangladesh and Cambodia (11 and 6 respectively, out of 22).  Out of 22, 13 were fire-related and 4 were fainting-related. 693 people have been injured and 21 people have died since January 2015.

    Role of social compliance and consumer behaviour

    At the moment, social media and public exposure is not enough to bring about the change needed in the industry.  As a business, brands need to cater the needs of their consumers; hence we must not forget to include them in the equation when it comes to target our efforts towards a more sustainable way of sourcing. Fast, trendy fashion and price sensitivities have overridden any change towards a more ethical and social consumption.

    Academic research has proven that there exists an attitude-behaviour gap when it comes to ethical consumption, where consumer choices often do not match their statement about what they would do when faced with an ethically labelled product.

    According to research by the World Economic Forum, 72% of young consumers, those that belong to the so called millennial generation – Millennials are those who born between 1980s and early 2000s, - say they are willing to buy sustainable products but only 17% actually do. There are several reasons for this: the meaning of ethically sourced, or responsibly sourced, product is unclear, and the claims regarding sustainable practices are either do not come across as clearly as we think. Consumers say that they don’t understand what the concept means, and worse, they say they have no means to verify claims by brands regarding their sourcing practices – it seems there is a general mistrust towards such statements, as was also confirmed in a recent World Economic Forum report, recommending not to use sustainability as a trend and not to make any fancy corporate claims, noting that ‘if a company advocates itself as a pioneer and forward thinker in the area of sustainability, it produces a negative connotation for Millennials’ [3]. It is clear that sustainable consumption is still far from the norm.

    Secondly, there is a fierce competition over their disposable income: the millennials’ total spending amounts to $125b a year. This is a prime target group for premium products which are constantly entering the market, take for example the iPhone 6, so the budgetary pressure on the disposable income of Millennials is always high, and so they are always in the lookout for affordable clothing.

    Price sensitivity is the main factor that pushes unit costs down, driving the retailers and brands to source from low cost production countries. It is worth noting that while the available budget for clothing items has not changed in the past twenty years ago, households now buy 4 times as much clothing. There is, it seems, insatiable appetite for cheap clothing, which also explains why the sales of budget retailers and brands, including those who sourced from the ill-fated Rana Plaza, are on the rise: Primark, for example, has posted a 16% increase in sales a year after the disaster. It seems that people don’t hold a grudge against a clothing brand as long as it meets their spending affordability and needs.

    Accountability vs. Responsibility: a fine line

    If we focus on price paid, raising the level of scrutiny and accountability might drive retailers away from poor countries to more expensive ones. But it is not the role of sourcing companies – whether retailers or their agents – to fix governance and enforcement deficiencies in sourcing countries. Their responsibility on the other hand is not to perpetuate them or make them worse. The fact that you have laws does not mean that they are implemented. Bangladesh has advanced labour laws and building codes, yet they are not applied properly. Corruption is rife, awareness is low that enforcement has been non-existent. Having a law does not in itself sufficient to ensure a law abiding behaviour. A combined approach of a carrot and stick may, on the other hand, yield more promising results. Retailers can offer longer term orders, across several seasons, as incentive for ethically run factories, governments can extend duty free privileges. 

    It is down to each organisation to decide whether they obey the law and to what extent they go beyond. However, these behavioural changes take time, and we cannot expect overnight miracles. It is worth noting that Health and Safety laws were introduced in the UK only in the late 1980s in response to the major fires/accidents and even then within an established legal system. 

    What’s next? Taking control of your supply chain through transparent practices

    At GreenGrade, we believe it’s all about taking control of your supply chain and knowing what is happening on the ground in order to make more sound decisions. This is a very complicated task that can take loads of resources to complete.

    Corporate Social Responsibility, Responsible Supply Chain, Sustainability, Corporate Citizenship, these terms resonate with the following question:  Do organisations have the right tools to monitor and engage with their lower tier suppliers? Are they actually driving behavioural change, or merely talking about the activities and the number of the workers trained? And most importatly, can they verify and measure the impact of their activities on actual behaviour?

    To address these questions properly, a shift needs to happen towards a methodology embedding principles of sustainability into factory operations. The following illustration represents the journey of a typical company in adding value through integration of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):

    Source: IBM Institute for Business Value

    From the chart above, it can be seen that the evolution towards creating CSR value follows a pattern that starts from adherence to law and compliance to innovative business that accelerates revenue generation. In practical terms, organisations should embed social compliance knowledge from the beginning of the employee’s journey in a workplace, preferably during the induction process of factories’ new recruits.

    Such awareness raising exercise would help companies to meet the requirements of a new wave of legislation, which aims at creating a baseline for more responsible international supply chains. See the example of the UK’s Modern Day Slavery Bill, which was debated for the final time by the House of Lords in March 2015 and is expected a Royal Assent soon, consolidating the current offences relating to human trafficking and slavery. The bill creates two new civil orders to prevent modern slavery, establishes an Anti-Slavery Commissioner and make provisions for the protection of modern slavery victims’ [4].

    The introduction of the Modern Day Slavery Bill emphasises the importance of transparency, as manifested in specific and disclosure and accountability steps expected now by companies’ boards. It will affect about 10,000 medium and large companies, requiring them to declare which steps have been taken to prevent slavery and trafficking in their supply chain. This is indeed a major task, as their visibility into what’s happening in factories that they don’t own or even control is very limited.

    The constraints and complexities in today’s supply chain cannot be underestimated: 

    • Exploitation and unethical practices are rife and abundant, including in the UK factory base. Suppliers assign production to unauthorised subcontractors, underpay workers and don’t invest in social compliance and safety measures.
    • Costs associated with social compliance are high, but factories are reluctant to make the appropriate investment as they are squeezed by the buyers to maintain a low price point, and also face serious operational challenges that directly impact their ability to meet social compliance requirements. Consider the below chart, which depicts a ‘Root Cause Analysis’, showing how production causes ethical violations.

    It clearly shows that except for deliberate over booking by a factory, there are factors that are beyond the direct control of its management, such as style or price tag changes mandated at the last minute by the buyers, or forces of nature that delay the arrival of essential raw materials, often lead to serious non-compliances. This may also explain why issues of low morale, high turnover, absenteeism and accidents persist.

    • Lack of loyalty – buyers often switch suppliers from one season to the next.  Overall there is less of incentive to step up the game.
    • The race to the bottom created a complex web-like supply chains – some big retailers have on average 1000 suppliers in 20 countries, but their ethical teams that monitor them comprise of only 5-10 people.
    • New regulatory and legislative steps will demand more transparency and accountability, claims of responsible sourcing would not be enough. Statements must be accompanied by actions. Fines and naming shaming might follow for offenders.
    • There is no universal code of conduct, and ISO for rules, dos and don’ts that every factory has to comply with. Each retailer has its own preferences, with focus in slightly different areas, and while they share more audits among themselves, still factories are overwhelmed with checks, sometimes as high as 100 audits per year. The below table illustrates the wide variety of requirements factories need to go through in order to comply with brands’ code of conduct.

    Given the above, creating a truly transparent and responsible supply chain in the retail space is more of a wishful thinking than a realistic prospect at this point, but GreenGrade and its partners work on solutions towards achieving precisely this.

    How can we make scalable solutions in order to have a better understanding of our supply chain and also make a difference on the ground?

    Technology is the answer. In a society where most of the young workers are in possession of a smartphone or a computer, we must come with solutions that allow us to reach the audience we want and make the impact we want. A knowledgeable workforce is essential for any industry to prosper.

    Social compliance has a very particular cost curve. Factories and businesses select compliance efforts at the minimum level of expenditure necessary. Costs to the firm are highest where there is little-to-no compliance.


    A key message arising from this graph was the current preventative measures, like training programmes, are either too costly or interfere with the production workflow and therefore rejected. This means that there is a bottle neck where factory owners are reluctant to invest because they don’t think pre-emptively and they don’t receive any benefit or incentive that may change this behaviour preference.

    This realisation informed our decision to change tack and focus on technology as a way of offering a scalable, affordable learning and certification platform that could transform the current compliance landscape with little-to-no marginal cost associated with it.

    GreenGrade and UpSkill

    We develop scalable learning solutions for ethical training. Our objective is to further  international best practices through technology in order to help factories understand and adhere to local legislation and international codes of conduct.

    GreenGrade has developed UpSkill, an e-learning platform for garment factory managers to improve and verify their knowledge of social and ethical compliance. The project is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, and encourages factory managers and supervisors to improve their baseline knowledge and apply it within their roles. UpSkill was designed from the ground up to address the challenging infrastructure bottlenecks that exist in many developing economies.

    Focusing on knowledge transfer, UpSkill was designed to create a common understanding of basic compliance and safety concepts. It offers a comprehensive knowledgebase, creates a systematic management of institutional knowledge geared towards creating sustainable efficiency and business growth. At the same time, the platform raises safety awareness within the work environment thus contributing to improvements of workers’ conditions. The knowledge gained is verified through a robust exam that cross checks the learner’s understanding through bespoke, unseen questionnaires compiled by the system’s algorithm. Once passed, the learner receives a certificate of completion and is enrolled to the platform’s certificate registry. By signing up their managers, factories communicate to the buyers their commitment to ethical standards, implemented across all teams. By aggregating the exam results, we would then create a bespoke rating list of factories.

    This, in turn, would help buyers to shorten their sourcing selection process, by targeting better performing and more ethically sound suppliers.

    UpSkill, and similar solutions, can definitely help organisations that build more transparent supply chains. Research shows that organisations that foster long term partnership with their suppliers reduce the risks of business interruption, shorten lead times and gain better quality products. In summary, UpSkill’s main benefits:

    • Screening: buyers would know the knowledge level of prospective factories’ staff before committing any business with them. There is no need to engage in social audits. UpSkill could help weed out bad lots quicker than any other tool.
    • Knowledge gap analysis: organisations could monitor existing factories in their supply base, identifying areas of weakens and strength, and act accordingly.
    • Two-way learning: Users of UpSkill would embark on a learning process, and could contribute to the content development by raising questions, and suggesting  new areas of content.

    Technology and Transparency as a way to understand your supply chain and communicate to your consumers

    At GreenGrade, we believe that business transparency contributes to better business decisions, as it provides organisations with a deeper understanding of the issues affecting their activities. A more transparent supply chain will also allow any organisation to communicate their actions with external stakeholders in a clearer manner, giving information about specific actions that have been taken and monitoring their progress. This has a direct effect not only upon efficiency but also on their reputation. The more organisations communicate about their monitoring and preventative measures in their supply chain, the better their reputation would be. However, in order for them to do so effectively, they must have a reliable picture of the different components on the ground. UpSkill could offer both the visibility and the remedy into the gaps of social awareness and understanding. At the end of the day, an international supply chain is as strong as its weakest link.

  • Guest Blog Posted on 2015-03-17 16:07:13 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    by Richard Karmel, Partner, Mazars UK - Global Head of Business and Human Rights

    Richard Karmel explains how supply chain managers are integral for respect to business and human rights.

    Richard Karmel is a Partner at Mazars, the global audit, tax and advisory firm employing some 1,400 people in the UK and 14,000 across 73 countries.

    He heads up the business and human rights service line, and recently led Mazars participation in the drafting of the United Nations Guiding Principles Reporting Framework www.UNGPreporting.org.

    One of the keys to success for any company Board is to agree on a strategy that helps deliver its vision. More often than not, the agreement of the strategy is the relatively straightforward part; it’s the implementation and execution that is more complicated, which defines whether the strategy succeeds or not.

    Agreement of the strategy is the end of the beginning. Bringing all the variable components of the strategy together in practice requires skills and communication abilities of the leaders and managers alike.

    Michael Porter, a professor of management at Harvard Business Schools has noted that: “Strategy links choices on the demand side with the unique choices about the value chain (the supply side). You can't have competitive advantage without both.” However, he goes on to say that: “many companies undermine their own strategies. Nobody does it to them. They do it themselves. Their strategies fail from within.

    One of the key areas that many multi-national companies (MNCs) are trying to understand and build into their strategies is corporate social responsibility (CSR); paying particular respect for human rights.

    In the first of Porter’s aforementioned quotes, CSR and respect for human rights is very relevant on the “supply side”. It isn’t good enough for companies to just embrace CSR or pay respect to human rights without building them into their strategies. However, just because they are included in the strategic thinking doesn’t mean that their objectives are going to be achieved. As Porter went on: “many companies undermine their own strategies”.

    In the case of CSR and respect for human rights this undermining, albeit unintentional, currently appears to be the norm. In many cases, CSR is hived off to the marketing or communications department, whilst the specific area of respect for human rights may land on the desks of general counsel. Several of the largest MNCs do have separate sustainability departments, but even these on their known are no guarantee of success.

    In the case of respect for human rights there’s a good case for both a top down as well as a bottom up strategy. In respect of ‘top-down’ I refer to a strategy that can be achieved from solely within the confines of the MNCs legal boundaries. This starts with the top Board aligning its practices and ensuring that these are devolved down.

    By ‘bottom up’, I refer to a strategy that can be embraced by the MNCs supply chain and communities. For this to work however, there needs to be clear lines of communication between the MNC, its suppliers and the communities in which they operate.

    In 2013, in Bangladesh the Rana Plaza tragedy occurred killing some 1,130 people, most of whom were women. It transpired that many MNCs, whose brand names were found on clothing in the rubble, didn’t know that their garments were being manufactured by the companies’ residing at Rana Plaza.

    There’s of course the question that even if they did know would they have cared? Well, many of these companies did have public human rights policies so somewhere within the MNC, respect for human rights was being thought about. However, the piece that appears to have been missed by most of these MNCs is ensuring that their suppliers or intermediaries in Bangladesh understood what these policies meant in practice.

    According to clause 13 of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: “The responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises: …  (s)eek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.” This is the clause that very few businesses had, and largely still fail to put into practice.

    If they had identified and understood the property concerns and the health and safety infringements taking place, there is a possibility that the fatalities at Rana Plaza may not have happened. Would MNCs have authorised their garments to be manufactured there after considering the culture in place and the property and health and safety conditions?

    So, how do companies even begin the cultural change necessary to take control of suppliers outside of their legal sphere of influence, but well within their moral sphere? First and foremost, it must be through education of the suppliers. However, if the only factor attributed to deciding which supplier to use is price, any leverage on education is almost a non-starter.

    Let’s assume that we have an MNC that wants to be around for the long term. Price is not the only factor in deciding which supplier to use, they should be interested in building a relationship with that supplier. Below are some of the factors that the MNC is going to want to understand about the supplier:

    • The availability of its resources to deliver the product at sufficient quality and on time;
    • The identity of the key suppliers of that supplier and the ability to assess their respect for human rights;
    • The limiting factors that could impact on that supplier being able to deliver the products/services as contracted;
    • The health and safety record at that supplier and its suppliers;
    • The key human rights risks to potentially affected stakeholders (not the MNC or supplier);
    • The effectiveness of the suppliers grievance mechanisms; and
    • The education and training that the supplier provides to its managers and wider teams.

    Of course, there are many other issues, but an understanding of the above will enable the MNC to build a clearer picture of the quality of the supplier and the risks that exist.

    To achieve this picture a relationship will need to be formed with that supplier. This means that it can’t just be seen as the MNC dictating its wishes; there needs to be some tangible demonstration that this is a two-way process. Commercial incentives could be employed to manifest this commitment to building such a relationship.

    One of the most effective ways of doing this will be to help the supplier with the training of its key personnel. If this training is performed effectively, there will be cohorts of managers at suppliers, who not only understand the requirements of the MNC, but will also understand the playing field of respect for human rights on which the supplier has to operate.

    If these managers understand this and have been trained appropriately, these messages and performance expectations will have been passed onto the wider teams.

    Such training doesn’t have to be expensive, either. There exists e-learning platforms that make local managers aware of ethical issues. Such an example is Green Grade’s e-learning platform, funded by the UK government, and which aims to raise: “the awareness levels of compliance and labour standards with the core aim of encouraging factory mid-managers to gain thorough knowledge.” This form of training can be rolled out across a whole swathe of suppliers; the success of the training though, will be judged by whether managers have been able to effectively implement what they have learned.

    This is why the training and education of suppliers needs to be holistic. It’s very helpful for managers to be trained in what is ethical practice, such as Green Grade’s programme. However, most suppliers will have issues and risks pertinent to themselves. This is where implementation assistance is required.  Either the MNCs can help in the wider implementation or independent third parties with deep local understanding can be used.

    The key test for all will be the monitoring of the resulting culture change. This oversight shouldn’t be looked upon as a threat, but as a further learning mechanism. The monitoring, if undertaken appropriately, will identify lessons for improvement and should aim at preventing future breaches.

    This doesn’t have to be performed independently; many forms of effective monitoring can be performed internally provided that the unit undertaking that monitoring is part of an appropriate governance mechanism that provides for a certain degree of autonomy.

    In conclusion, the education and training of managers in supply chains is critical for improvement in wider ethical standards. If this is understood by global businesses, it will become more of the norm rather than exception. Suppliers that don’t adopt such standards will be avoided.

    However, such training isn’t to be undertaken in isolation. It needs to be part of a wider strategy for both MNCs and suppliers to interact. This is where both parties need to be clear about the basis of their relationship. It should no longer be one-way as many are currently; the MNC needs to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the supplier with the reverse being true for the supplier.

    This will not only result in improved ethical behaviours but, on account of this increased engagement and understanding, it’s highly likely that the MNC/supplier relationship will deliver increased cash returns for both parties. Quality and consistency will improve and less money spent on legal costs when breakdowns arise.

    Richard Karmel

    richard.karmel@mazars.co.uk

    Partner and Global Head of Human Rights at Mazars

  • GreenGrade Staff Posted on 2015-03-17 16:03:29 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    by Anneysa Ghosh, Assistant Project Manager of UpSkill

    Is your smart phone a trophy wife or an equal partner? It is high time we start being smart with our smartphone and allow it to make us to live and work smartly. Trust me it can handle stress and manage your day so you can concentrate on taking the world…

    The beauty of a smartphone is that it can start from making your morning coffee to monitoring your goodnight sleep. However, if not used to its optimum limits, then it is just another uselessly expensive gadget in your hand.

    Today, my friends and family consider me as the most organised and focused individual. I am an ‘app fanatic’ and this is a blog where I list the most important ‘free’ apps that organises my day and help me to stay committed, thus making me better at what I do (since I wake up til' I go back to sleep).

    1. Sleepbot: To wake up with lot of energy and ready to conquer, one needs a goodnight sleep. Sleepbot tracks sleeping patterns and gently wakes you up at the best possible hour. My housemate always woke up angry and tired as she did not know that there is something known as ‘sleep cycle’. Now those days for angry mornings due to her loud alarm breaking her deep sleep are history. It’s free and has lots of information to improve your sleeping habits. Now, I wake up happy which positively affects my mood and productivity at work.

    2. Guardian App: This app downloads the latest content as soon as it’s connected to the Internet. It takes me 45 minutes to get to work, and unlike many Londoners who complain about the tube, I get the most of a crowded journey. I get myself on top of the latest World news and then pretend to be the ‘smarty pant’ at 9am as I walk into work. I like this app because it allows me to pick my favourite subjects and keep myself on the loop.

    3. Producteev: At GreenGrade we work with remote teams, fact that makes coordination one of the most important aspects of our roles. Producteev is just another task-management software for teams, but the key is in its simple user-interface and accessibility. It is available as native mobile apps for both android and iOS that make teams collaborate anytime and anywhere. At the moment, we all assign, co-ordinate, debate and complete our activities over Producteev. Hence, the first thing I do every morning at my desk is sip on my morning coffee and look through Producteev.

    4. UpSkill: Our company, Greengrade is a leader in social compliance, therefore it is extremely important that the team is always informed and updated with the latest headlines on ethical compliance and social standards. UpSkill is an e-learning platform that raises the awareness levels of compliance and labour standards. Everyday I do a practice session on GreenGrade’s UpSkill platform to validate and increase my knowledge in areas of social compliance, as UpSkill is a flexible, user-friendly platform that measures your understanding in real time. Did I say that prior knowledge of social compliance isn’t needed? Click here to know more about UpSkill and maybe do a demo!

    5. Evernote: I accidentally bumped into this App, which must be everyone’s favourite, especially if you use Android and iOS simultaneously. It is the easiest platform to save everything, from my handwritten notes to a holiday blog. I love it because it supports audio files and chrome extensions that clip everything I need for future reference. As it synchronises well, I have it on my phone, laptop and work desktop, thus helping me organise my ideas and retrieve them whenever I want. Evernote is a must if you love having early-evenings meetings in a café!

    6. Nike Training Club: Now we all know the importance of staying fit and that can be achieved from a brisk walk to yoga. Believe me, I have tried everything other than climbing and recently, I have started using Nike+ training club. The App works as my personal trainer and pushes me to workout after a long day at work by setting milestones. I must admit this App does need some improvements, but I am absolutely sold as it allows me to connect up to Spotify (that is another app and the only one I use for music), and pushes me to maintain my commitment to “a healthy January”.

    7. Wunderlist: A fantastic App when it comes to portable scheduler. Before I start my night reading and detach myself from technology, I schedule my activities on Wunderlist as necessary. Next day at work this helps me to prioritise tasks, whether personal or professional. It also allows me to share the tasks with my friends or colleagues if I need to. It also sends me reminders on my personal goals from ‘eating a fruit’ to ‘finishing this blog’.

    There are plenty of ‘free’ and awesome Apps available that can make life extremely simple and organised. Nevertheless, it is up to us to implement them otherwise they are just another annoying piece of codes taking up your memory. In my generation, we all want to be super productive and conquer the world. That’s the attitude! However, that is only possible if you clear up your space and let yourself breadth by efficiently managing your time and productivity.

  • GreenGrade Stories Posted on 2015-03-17 15:58:14 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    During our day-to-day interactions with factories, we at GreenGrade have often observed failure to meet ethical compliance requirements, even when other drivers such as pressing business needs or budget is available. A large part of this has been attributed to the lack of awareness and knowledge among managers who are responsible for implementing the requirements. It has been agreed by factories that it is indeed the case, with the most common ‘reason’ being the complexity of the ethical compliance landscape.

    This presents a perplexing problem, since the commonly used method to estimate factory ethical performance are audit reports. Audit reports rarely give an indication of the awareness and knowledge of ethical compliance at a factory (other than indirectly from the number and severity of non-compliances seen)! Therefore, even if a factory successfully completes actions to address non-compliances noted in a report, without the required awareness and knowledge at factory level, it is unlikely that ethical performance can be sustainably managed. How can they, if managers do not know enough about ethical compliance?

    So how do we increase the ethical compliance awareness and knowledge of a whole industry in a country, without the traditional costs of training thousands? Simple; e-learning, the method many have tried and failed. True, there have been many reports written and opinions out there on e-learning arguing both ways. Some benefits of e-learning, as noted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD 2013) include:

    - Available 'just in time' and can be used anywhere at anytime.

    - Flexibility of access from anywhere at anytime.

    - Ability to reach simultaneously an unlimited number of employees, even in dispersed locations or complex organisational structures.

    - Uniformity/consistency of delivery of training/learning.

    - Potential to achieve cost reductions/cost-effectiveness, which may be perceived as especially important during adverse economic circumstances.

    - Possible reduction in the time taken to deliver training.

    - Ability to log or track learning activities, including capacity for HR or learning departments to check electronically that all relevant employees have completed compulsory training modules.

    - Possibilities of global connectivity and collaboration opportunities.

    - Ability to personalise the training for each learner.

    With benefits like these, why have so many initiatives failed and what can be the solution for the future? There are many views, but according to research insight from the CIPD (2012), “The combination of computing power, proliferation of gaming in leisure time and the need to capture the attention and engagement of learners means gaming will be increasingly crucial”.

    Introducing UpSkill

    At GreenGrade, we have been working on UpSkill, our new e-learning solution for some time now. UpSkill is to reach thousands of users in hundreds of factories thanks to its scalable, immersive and customisable design. Therefore, capturing the attention and engagement of learners without personal interaction (which is still the traditional model of training used most commonly in Bangladesh) is a key aspect that a lot of effort was spent developing.

    The resulting ethical compliance learning ‘game’ that was created not only helps transfer awareness and knowledge, but does so in a manner that does not put the learner to sleep. Indeed, we considered this as critical if one of the main problems of e-learning- low completion rates, is to be avoided.

    By constantly challenging the learner (while making resources available for reference and guidance if required) ensures that the learner has suitable ‘handholding’ that allows them to progress towards successfully completing the learning. The game environment and accessibility of related reference materials helps a manager at a factory navigate through the confusing maze of ethical compliance requirements in a more engaging (dare I say enjoyable?!) manner. Certainly a more palatable medium of learning for people whose energies are focused on shipments due or the most immediate targets.

    So can UpSkill single-handedly change the ethical compliance landscape of Bangladesh? The following viewpoint from the CIPD would be pertinent to note at this point: “Where used effectively and in conjunction with other development methods, e-learning can help to support high levels of individual, team and organisational performance as one key strand of organisational learning strategy” (CIPD 2013).

    What this means is that if there was an expectation that UpSkill would be the magic bullet that solves the ethical compliance issues at factories on its own, then that would be a utopian expectation. As anybody who has undergone training will tell you, it is the practical application that really makes the difference. What UpSkill can do is increase the ethical compliance awareness and knowledge levels- so that managers are in a better position to understand what actions need to be taken to meet requirements, which is the foundation for driving improvements.

    By applying awareness and knowledge gained through UpSkill, the factories can put themselves in a better position to comply with ethical standards required. This will give their customers greater confidence that the factory have the capacity to maintain sustainability of practices in the future.

    UpSkill will be rolled out in Bangladesh soon as part of the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) Trade in Global Value Chains Initiative (TGVCI), which supports innovative solutions in the Bangladeshi garment sector. UpSkill has received a grant approval from TGVCI, run by DFID’s Programme Management Unit and managed by Cardno Emerging Markets (UK) Ltd.

    Using the latest technologies, we at GreenGrade will be delivering UpSkill e-learning on ethical compliance directly to the factory, to an extent not seen before in the country. Stay tuned.

    References

    CIPD (2012) From e-learning to ‘gameful’ employment, CIPD Sustainable Organisation Performance Research Insight, April 2012. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

    CIPD (2013) E-learning Factsheet -Revised August 2013. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/factsheets/e-learning.aspx (Accessed on 7th July 2014)

  • GreenGrade Stories Posted on 2014-04-24 16:57:03 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Today marks the first year of the tragic incident of the Rana Plaza building collapse which killed 1138 garment workers and wounded more than 2500 of them. This multi-storeyed building hosted different companies who produced for our major retail giants.

    “I lost my 19 year old son at the collapse. I come to this site every day to feel his presence since we could only recover half of his body after 15 days of the wreckage” says sobbing mother of Nazmul while staring at the debris of Rana Plaza.

    Nazmul was a sewing operator at the New Wave Bottoms Ltd factory located on the 2nd floor of the building. His mother like many other victims loved ones are still in shock and are visiting the site for the last one year. She blames the Bangladesh government of not having sufficient infrastructure to support such a tragic accident. After losing her son, she hopes to see more number of initiatives promoting workers safety being implemented so no mother goes through this unbearable loss.

    It is only fair to state that Bangladesh and its garment industry have learnt a great deal from this tragedy. The factory owners have been coaxed by their stakeholder to accept responsibility in order to improve workers safety standards. Collaborations such as ACCORD, ALLIANCE and other labour group initiated platforms have started restructuring the garment industry for better. A lot has been happening in terms of initiatives but it is still to be tested if the garment workers are aware of them and whether such programs are effectively co-existent.

    Today being the first anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza incident, we would like to share the story of Nelufa and Fely. We usually read about the big players of the industry and their stance but hardly are the individuals who suffered the most gets to share their dreams and fears. 

    NELUFA BEGAM

    FELY

    Workers safety is of interest to people but very few are really sure about the existing standards and how they need to be implemented. The only thing RMG sector is very well versed is the audit/inspection system. We believe that GreenGrade’s new project can help to achieve this basic awareness and develop within the RMG sector.

    We, the GreenGrade team would now like to request you to observe a minute of silence in the memory of the lives lost and the sufferings endured.

  • GreenGrade Stories Posted on 2014-03-06 18:22:36 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Recent documentaries exposed unacceptable work conditions in Bangladeshi Factories, but did they show the full picture?

    Ahead of the Rana Plaza disaster anniversary and on the back of the London Fashion Week, several British news organisations recounted in the past few weeks some unacceptable labour conditions in few factories in Bangladesh. Child labour, abuse of female workers, safety breaches and indifference towards basic legal requirements, underlined the unacceptable work practices employed by unscrupulous factory owners.

    ITV television channel aired on 6th of February the programme ‘Exposure: Fashion Factories Undercover’, which was followed shortly by the Sunday Times article ‘Blocked stairs, poor exits: the unsafe fashion factories’. Plenty of articles published following these exposures have questioned the Bangladeshi garment industry’s real willingness to change. However, they have overlooked and largely ignored one major fact: the huge amount of effort done by many factories to improve their working standards.

    The ITV documentary showed appalling footage of a girl as young as 14 years old being verbally and physically abused in a garment factory while being forced to work for 11 or more hours. This same factory that produces for giant UK retailers is seen responsible for padlocked fire emergency exits.  Moreover, there was footage of managers tutoring the workers on how to answer the factory inspectors who were expected later that day. Similar to this documentary was the article published in The Sunday Times on 16 February 2014 pointing towards blocked stairs and exits in an unapproved factory that produced for international fashion labels. The accused and named brands have responded by statements suggesting that either they were not informed and never approved the sub-contracting practice. Others said that they have terminated their contract with suppliers and factories who breached their business terms.

    It is known fact that brands and retailers holds the sourcing and buying power, and therefore fulfil a  pivotal role in ensuring that factories fall into line. However, showing Bangladesh in poor light by highlighting the example of few bad factories, may lead to the opposite reaction – influencing these brands to shift their sourcing destination elsewhere. This would hinder the significant effort which is underway to raise factory standards. While there are factories as shown in both the ITV documentary and The Sunday Times article that have not taken social and safety compliance seriously, it is fair to say that many other factories have done well. These examples must be presented as well.

    GreenGrade’s Managing director, Dr Sharon Sadeh said ‘The recent media exposures do not portray a complete and fair picture of the Bangladeshi garment sector. A lot of work has been done and taken on board by many factories and ignoring their efforts will not encourage the industry to raise its standards. Much progress is likely to be achieved through the work of two particular industry initiatives: the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Factories are actively allocating funds for infrastructure improvements, staff training and purchase of safety equipment at unprecedented scale – this is largely at the behest of international brands, mainly from the UK and US ’.

    Since the disaster of Rana Plaza and the tragic fire accident of Tazreen, Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) sector has been under much scrutiny on labour rights and safety issues. International agreements and initiatives by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Bangladesh Accord, Alliance and other programmes have been promptly set up. A positive outcome will only be possible through commitment to change by all parties.  GreenGrade hopes that the many stakeholders involved in Bangladesh will help its garment sector to raise standards and thrive as a sourcing destination.

  • GreenGrade Stories Posted on 2014-01-27 10:44:58 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Executive Summary

    The retail industry contributes to wealth generation and employment in developed and developing countries and is known for its extensive global reach and high level of price competition which puts downward pressure on prices throughout the supply chain. Today the working conditions in global supply chains have come under heavy scrutiny due to insufficient monitoring of both social and environmental conditions. Most reputation-conscious buyers only associate with factories with adequate compliance standards. Non-compliances, especially in the area of child labour and health and safety usually lead to immediate and permanent delisting from a retailer’s supply books.

    In this empirical study, the factors causing non-compliance in the garment sector of Bangladesh and Cambodia is discussed. Both countries have access to large workforces of low-wage labourers making them attractive options for western buyers.The countries have distinct culture and history but our reports highlighting their non-compliances have usually found quite similar issues. Therefore, it is worth understanding the major factors triggering such non-compliances. This report focuses on the political situations, the role of International Funding Schemes and Socio-economic factors of both Bangladesh and Cambodia that could be the cause of not adhering to the code. 

    The media highlights the unfortunate conditions of the factories situated in these countries but fails to analyse the vicious cycle leading to these conditions. This study is based on our experiences working with our client’s factories based in both countries and a literature review of various available reports and articles. The reading list has been added at the end for further understanding of the dynamics creating such ethical non-compliance. 

    Political Mechanism

    Cambodia and Bangladesh are infamous for continuous strikes and high levels of corruption. Both these factors have an adverse impact on the country’s garment sector. The political situation of a country has a significant contribution to the industries stability and success.

    Though the countries are different when it comes to their political structure and history still they manage to produce similar consequences. For example: According ETI Base Code 2.1 under the “‘Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected’ the workers, without distinction have the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing and to bargaining collectively.” The majority of garment workers in both the countries do not get to exercise this right to its optimum.

    In Cambodia though there is a high level of unionization still these trade unions fail to represent the workers due to their motives being highly politicized or being more involved with court cases, arbitration and disputes. At the extremes if the union leaders gain extra fame then those unions are more vulnerable and the leader face life threat (tragic case of Chea Vichea in 2010) that does not serve to protect workers lives or promote their interest in the workplace.

    On the other hand Bangladesh government does not encourage formation of unions. The few existing unions are either affiliated with the ruling or the opposition party. Most of these unions are known for being corrupted and workers have a feeling that these unions favour the employers more than representing the factory workers. News and stories highlight that the workers who do associate with unions usually become victims of assault, harassment and also life threat. In 2012, Aminul Islam who was a prominent union leader was killed which spread a fear among the workers to join unions. 

    Recently due to political unrest in the country, it has been facing raged demonstration from workers on the issues of minimum wage and standard of working conditions. In a report, researcher Bjorn Claeson (2010) stated that the main reason of mounting labour unrest is due to lack of a recognized labour union.  

    International Funding Agencies

    Since the 1980’s, both Cambodia and Bangladesh have been under the structural adjustment program imposed by International Financial Institutes. The rise of structural adjustment and neo-liberalism had a debatable impact on the developments of the state. In simple terms, countries like Cambodia and Bangladesh were going through major macro-economic problems during 1980’s comprised of high inflation rates, low growth rates and large balance of payment deficits. The only viable options for such countries were to seek assistance from International Monetary Fund and World Bank. 

    Certain conditions needed to be fulfilled by these countries in order to obtain this assistance. The two types of programmes attached were: Stabilization involving short-term measures to restore balance of payments and Structural adjustment measures for long-term implementation ‘to restructure the economy and generate economic growth’. Essentially this includes reduction in public expenditure, devaluation and steps to intensify production of internationally tradable goods. Reports suggested such conditions only increased the inequalities in the country.

    In 1999 IMF/World Bank launched Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and the post-Washington Consensus these aimed at promoting investment in ‘human capital’ and a “country-driven” approach to poverty reduction. The critics to these new conditions suggest that these were the ‘treatments’ to an already epidemic disease.

    The predictions of World Bank and the IMF on Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) were proved wrong in contexts of social welfare and economic conditions. Removal of subsidies from food and basic goods inflated the prices and made them inaccessible to the poor. Also this shifted government spending from social investment to debt servicing. These elevated poverty in the low-income countries. The 

    notion of trade bringing significant benefits to developing countries is arguably correct but it has to develop strategies that endorse supply responses and facilitate pro-poor growth of the country. 

    Bangladesh realised its potential as a garment exporter when it underwent the structural adjustment program in the 1980’s and became export-oriented nation. Around the same time Cambodia integrated their export-led growth through rapid liberalization and further integration in the global economy. Both these countries were export driven and focused on economic growth to qualify for further debt relief initiatives. 

    Since the implementation of PRSP’s the UNDP has stated the inequalities reducing in both these countries. The reduction in their inequality is noticed but the reduction in comparison of their total export growth is still questionable. It is important to understand that UNDP acts as a custodian to the PRSP’s regional policy controllers. A report published by UNDP accessed their relationship with PRSPs. The UNDP has the expertise and therefore facilitates the PRSPs macro framework that allows space to foster pro-poor expenditure. Though it is a discussion on its own that will not be tackled in this report but the only point that is crucial in our study is that PRSP is part of a process that is political and technical and employs dynamic activities that sway with the economic situation. Therefore, it is not justifiable to report that these countries are doing better on the human development index due the PRSP and other international programmes. 

    The Multifibre Arrangement* (MFA) is another factor which has a significant impact on the garment industry of both Cambodia and Bangladesh. The MFA was revoked in 2004 and the garment trade was liberalized which intensified the price-competition. Usually the quotas imposed on large exporters benefited the low-income exporters but this termination questioned the stability of growth and poverty reduction in the garment-exporting low-income countries like Cambodia and Bangladesh. Keeping in mind, the oligopolistic nature of retail sector in developed countries and labour-intensified industry in the developing country an interesting overview could be drawn.

    Stolper-Samuelson Theorem predicted that liberalization usually reduces the output prices, which consequently reduce the workers’ wages. Now a drop in wage pushes the cost of production down that in turn leads to growth of production and export. This mechanism has been famous as ‘race to the bottom’ and ‘immiserizing growth’.

    After 2004, the garment exports of both countries grew rapidly. In Cambodia the number of firms grew and which in turn increased employment. This led to high productivity in the nation and this supported the bolstering wages.

    Then in 2009 United States and European Union removed restrictions against garment imports from China and Vietnam. This surged the competition even more among all the eastern Asian countries exporting garments. At the same time, recession hit the global economy and the cotton prices went up increasing the cost of production. In 2010, Cambodia’s export suffered a great deal due the above-mentioned factors and several others.

     

    Even though the growth in the garment sector in both countries increased in a declining rate still they maintained their price-competiveness. This contradicted the pessimistic views of economist on the post-MFA era. The size of the global market expanded letting the entry of new firms. The main reason of the productivity growth in a liberalized market was possible due to frequent firm turnover as well as the efforts of surviving firm.

    Also IMF promoted Trade Integration Mechanism to ease the short-term balance of payment difficulties. After IMF finished the 2nd review of Bangladesh PRGF Arrangement in 2004, they approved activation of the Trade Integration Mechanism that eased the short-term balance of payment difficulties.

    Dynamics of Vulnerability and Dependence

    The era of neo-liberal economy promoting globalisation created dependency on the global market. Such dependencies exposed these Least Developed Countries to a vulnerable environment. Various external and internal factors are responsible for affecting every stakeholder of this sector.

    The above figure is drawn to explain that vulnerability pertains among all the economic actors in countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia. From the last section it is clear that the national governments are vulnerable to International Financial Support and foreign investors to sustain their economic growth. Then the business houses and factory owners are vulnerable to their position in the supply chain. They are exposed to a market where they have to beat their counter-parts to maintain their business. The end of the supply chain is the factory workers and their organisations that are highly vulnerable to every economic change. They are exposed to poor working conditions and risk of losing jobs, which is dependent on the global market and their demand. 

    One of the usual challenges of the garment sector is their lack of ethical compliance related to overtime and adjacent violations. Most of the factories have a production bottleneck to be met.

    It is unfortunate that the factories are indirectly compelled to prioritise shipment fulfilments over ethical compliance due to the risk of penalty, monetary loss as well as sourcing relations with the buyers. In most cases, these factories fail to adhere to their customer’s ethical requirements due to outstanding violations, which would have occurred while satisfying the same customer’s shipment requirement. 

    The other major factor causing overtime and other ethical violation in this factory is overbooking orders up to 20% of their actual capacity, which is a regular practice among the garment factories. We have noticed that factories located in both the countries overbook orders approximately by 10-15%. In 2011, few of the factories in Bangladesh even exceeded their capacity by 25%.

    The major challenge we identified was during recessionary periods, the buyers try to negotiate the price with the factories and this undermines the incentive of the factory trying to restrict the practice of overbooking to reduce the risk of overtime. In the year 2011 and 2012, this was a major drawback for our client’s factories located in both the countries that had to solicit more orders and therefore overbook when needed in order to keep their own margins but yet again they face greater risk of buyer changes which leads back to overtime and seven day work.

    The biggest hit for Cambodia was during 2008 financial crisis. This crisis originated in the US, which was also the biggest buyer of garments and foot-wear produced in Cambodia. This economic situation had a major adverse effect on the dollar dependent country. The demand went down due to recession and the factories had to face a great loss. One important fact that needs to be discussed repeatedly is the structural adjustment undergone by these countries leading them to be highly export-oriented and dependent of foreign markets.

    Social and Cultural Impact

    Cambodia and Bangladesh are among the most religious countries of the world. About 95% of the population of Cambodia are Theravada Buddhists and 85% of the population of Bangladesh is Bengali-Muslim.  Two major celebrations in Cambodia are Pchum Ben and Water Festival but almost every month the calendar is tight with either cultural or international holidays.

    Bangladesh being a predominantly Islam country they celebrate the joyful festival of two Eids, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-Ul-Azha along with the month of Ramazan and other religious festivals. Similar to Cambodia, even the Bangladeshi calendar is tight with national holidays and cultural celebrations.

    It is worth noting that Cambodia and Bangladesh’s culture, law and human capital contributes to a significant challenge to any business owner. The figure below represents the productivity of both the countries around the year. About 23% of the year is occupied by national holidays in these countries

    Moreover, the factories witnesses low workforce attendance on the first day of work after a major national holiday. From our observance and experience, the attendance stabilises only after 14 days but it is estimated that there is overall a loss of 8 – 14% of the productive days on an average, every year. If a working day falls in between some major holiday then only 40% of the workforce shows up and produces 20% less of their usual output. Also productivity drops preceding a major holiday. 

    An interesting identical problem faced in both the countries is the issue of loyalty among workers. The factories do not expect the workers to stay more than couple of years and usually the reason of job rotation is concerned with better job offers or family reason. The monthly migration levels are around 10-11% in Bangladesh and 5-8% in Cambodia. 

    The similarity in labour force characteristics between these nations is that the garment sector is female dominated. Most of these women are young and unmarried with little education and belongs to the rural population. 

    The Labour turnover in respect to most of these young women is linked to the socio-economic characteristics of both the countries. They have a ‘hierarchically structured society’ with the strong notion of men being the bread-winners of the family and women being the household carers. Though women are granted equal constitutional rights still according to the social norms men have higher authority over women. This influences the women to dedicate most of her time to her family after marriage.

    In order to support their families before marriage, these women migrate to other towns and start working at the factories at a very young age with low wages. Factory owners use this situation in their advantage and prefer employing young women for easy control and low price. These women leave the factory at the event of their marriage. The employers choose to let these workers go after marriage and recruit new younger ones. Also most women leave the job after marriage due to their dislike of workplace stress and hazard.

    The other probable reasons of high Labour turnover rate are due to the wages. Once the workers have sufficient experience and skills then they get easily attracted to jobs in other factories with better wages. 

    Conclusion

    Today, the garment industry is highly debated around the world. Tragic incidents of Rana Plaza and Tazreen in Bangladesh followed by continuous lockouts in Cambodia have put this industry under close supervision in the international arena. This sector though contributes more than 80% of the export revenue to their respective industry still suffers due political, international and socio-economic reasons.

    Over the years the garment sectors have expanded but if the existing issues keep persisting in these nations then it will be worth observing how they maintain their position in the international garment sector. This report dealt mainly with the dynamics in their respective political structure, effect of international funding services and cultural and social norm that has and will keep having an enormous role to play in this sector.

    The garment sector would continue to flourish only if all stakeholders: buyers, suppliers, factories and government could address the inter-linked issues and improve the country’s reputation. The international media has been criticising the sweatshops, fire and building safety measures and more but very few of them report the reasons forcing such unethical and non-compliant behaviour of the factories situated in developing countries. Such non- compliance and pressure on labour standards is created by the increasing competition among global suppliers on the basis of pricing or labour cost in order to cater to a small group of powerful buyers.

    Therefore, globalisation did promote these countries and gave them the necessary recognition on the world economy but at the cost of competing in a highly vulnerable environment. The different code of conducts established by international organisations and retailers or any other effective solutions can only achieve some success if they are in accordance to the price- competition and buyer-pricing dynamics. 

    Glossary

    BDT- Bangladeshi Taka

    BGMEA – Bangladesh Garment Manufactures & Exporter Association

    ETI – Ethical Trade Initiative

    GMAC – Garment Manufacturers Association

    IMF – International Monetary Fund

    MFA- Multi fibre Arrangement

    PRSP – Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers

    SAP- Structural Adjustment Program

    UNDP – United Nations Development Programme

    Reading List

    Ahmed, S., Rahman, Z. M and Islam, N. (2013). Labor Unrest in the Ready-Made Garment Industry of Bangladesh. International journal of Business and Management; Volume 8, No. 15. Available at: http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ijbm/article/viewFile/25661/17243

    Anner, M., Bair, J and Blasi, J. (2012). Buyer Power. Pricing Practices and Labor Outcomes in Global Supply Chains. Available at: http://www.colorado.edu/ibs/pubs/pec/inst2012-0011.pdf

    Asuyama, Y., Chhun, D., Fukunishi, T., Neou, S and Yamagata, T. (2010). Firm Dynamics in the Cambodian Garment Industry: Firm Turnover, Productivity Growth, and Wage Profile under Trade Liberalization. Available at: http://ir.ide.go.jp/dspace/bitstream/2344/930/1/ARRIDE_Discussion_No.268_asuyama.pdf

    Bargawi, O. (2005). Cambodia’s Garment Industry – Origins and Future Prospects. Economics and Statistical Analysis Unit Working Paper 13, London. Available at http://www.odi.org.uk/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/2513.pdf

    Beresford, M. (2009). The Cambodia clothing industry in the post-MFA environment: a review of developments. Journal of Asia Pacific Economy Volume 14, Issue 4, Pages 366-388. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13547860903169357#.UsanR7SPDy8

    Bjorn, C. (2010, November). Enemies of the Nation or Human Rights Defenders? Fighting Poverty Wages in

    Bangladesh. Sweat Free Community. Available at: http://www.sweatfree.org/docs/enemiesofthenation.pdf

    Chea, S and  Sok, H. (2013). Cambodia’s Membership in the WTO and the Implication for Public Health. Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics Volume 4, Issue 2. Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=yjhple

    Dennis, A. (2013). Workers’ agency and re-working power relations in Cambodia’s garment industry. Available at: http://www.capturingthegains.org/pdf/ctg-wp-2013-24.pdf

    Ear, S. (2009). Sowing and Sewing Growth The Political Economy of Rice and Garments in Cambodia. Available at: http://csua.berkeley.edu/~sophal/384.pdf  

    Easterly, W. (2005). What did structural adjustment adjust? The association of policies and growth with repeated IMF and World Bank adjustment loans. Journal of Development Economics Volume 76 Pages 1-22. Available at: https://mcedc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/Easterly_What%20did%20Structural%20Adjustement%20Adjust.pdf

    Elson, D. (1995). Male bias in macro-economics: the case of structural adjustment. [This article is Chapter 7 of Elson, Diane (ed.) 1995. Male Bias in the Development Process, Second edition, Manchester University Press, Manchester.]

    Greenleaf, A., Ahmed, F and Sacks, A. (2012). Regulatory Reform in Bangladesh: The Political Settlement and the Garment Industry. Available at: http://web.mit.edu/polisci/research/Greenleaf_Ahmed_Sacks.pdf

    Gilbert, A. (2012). Major Cambodian festivals: Pchum Ben and Water Festival. Travelfish Organisation. Available at: http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/cambodia/2012/10/01/major-cambodian-festivals-pchum-ben-and-water-festival/

    Hossain. E. (2013). Aminul Islam. Murdeed Bangladeshi Labor Acctivist. Still Without Justice 14 Months After Death. HuffingPost on 22nd of June 2013. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/22/animul-islam-bangladesh-activist_n_3473603.html

    Hossain, Z. (2010). Report on Cambodia Textile & Garment Industry. African Cotton & Teextile Industries Federation. Available at: http://www.cottonafrica.com/documents/ACTIF%20Report%20on%20Cambodia%20Textile%20and%20Garment%20Industry_Zakir%20Hossain_2010.pdf

    Hughes, C. (2003). The Political Economy of Cambodia’s Transition, 1991-2001.London: Routledge Courzon.Avaialable at: http://www.untag-smd.ac.id/files/Perpustakaan_Digital_2/POLITICAL%20ECONOMY%20The%20political%20economy%20of%20Cambodia%92s%20transition,%201991%962001.pdf

    ILO and IILS (2013). Studies On Growth With Equity. Bangladesh : Seeking Better Employment Conditions For Better Socioeconomic Outcomes. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_229105.pdf

    Im, N., T and Dabadie, M. (2007). Dollarization in Cambodia. Available at:http://www.nbc.org.kh/download_files/publication/others_eng/NoteMD117-14_article_dollarization.pdf

    IMF. (2013). IMF Concludes 2013 Article IV Mission to Cambodia. Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13451.htm

    Kolben, K. (2004). ‘Trade, monitoring and the ILO: working to improve conditions in

    Cambodia’s garment factories’. Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal 7: 79-120.

    KPMG (2012). Investing in Cambodia. Available at: https://www.kpmg.com/KH/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/Investing%20in%20Cambodia_16%20Jul_s.pdf

    Mamum, K. A and Nath, K. H. (2005). Export-led growth in Bangladesh: time series analysis. Applied Economics Letters Volume 12, Issue 6, Pages 361-364. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504850500068194#.UrhtgPRdVK0

    Murshid, K. A. S., Zohir, C. S., Ahmed, M., Zabid, I and Mehedi, S. A. T. M. (2009). The Global Financial Crisis Implications For Bangladesh. BIDS-PRP Working Paper Series. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/292386/Global_Financial_Crisis_Implications_for_Bangladesh_BIDS-PRP_Working_Paper_

    Polaski, S. (2006). Combining Global and Local Forces: The Case of Labor Rights in Cambodia. Issue of World Development Volume 34 No. 5. Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/WDCambodia1.pdf

    Prowse, S. (2002). The Role of International and National Agencies in Trade-related Capacity Building.  The World Economy Volume 25 Issue 9 Pages 1235 – 1261. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9701.00490/abstract

    Przeworski, A and Vreeland, R., J. (2000). The effect of IMF programs on economic growth. Journal of Development Economics Volume 62 Pages 385 – 421. Available at: http://international.ucla.edu/media/files/Przeworski_Vreeland.pdf

    Rahman, M. K. (2013). Governing Mechanism for Controlling Labour: The case of the Ready-Made Garment Industry in Bangladesh.  International Journal of Political Science and Development. Vol. 1(2), pp. 32-24. Available at: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijrcm.org.in%2Fdownload.php%3Fname%3Dijrcm-3-IJRCM-3_vol-3_2013_issue-11.pdf%26path%3Duploaddata%2Fijrcm-3-IJRCM-3_vol-3_2013_issue-11.pdf&ei=prHGUvvtFIyihgfz74DIAw&usg=AFQjCNGEB42QvAGQ-j_Tg0q-ET_672sHQw&sig2=5k6XnMPvflBovutdfx52ig&bvm=bv.58187178,d.ZG4

    Rahman, M. (2011). Trade Benefits for Least Developed Countries: The Bangladesh Case. Market Access Initiatives, Limitation and Policy Recommendations. Centre for Policy Dialogue Dhaka. Bangladesh. Available at: http://esango.un.org/ldcportal/documents/10179/13459/Bangladesh%20case-study.pdf

    Savchenko, Y and Acevedo, L. G. (2012). Female Wages in the Apparel Industry Post-MFA: The Cases of Cambodia and Sri Lanka. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper. Available at: http://elibrary.worldbank.org/doi/pdf/10.1596/1813-9450-6061.

    Socheth, H. (2013). Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Cambodian Economy at Macra and Sectoral Levels. CDRI Working Paper Series No.72. Available at: http://www.cdri.org.kh/webdata/download/wp/wp72e.pdf

    Tang, C. T and Ravin, C. (2013). Export-Led Growth in Cambodia: An Empirical Study. Monash University, Department of Economics. Available at: http://www.buseco.monash.edu.au/eco/research/papers/2013/0313exportcambodiatangravin.pdf

    UNDP. (2013). Human Development Report, The Rise of the South, Analysis on Cambodia. Available at: http://www.undp.org/content/dam/cambodia/docs/PovRed/2013HDRAnalysisonCambodia.pdf

    UNDP (2013). Human Development Report 2013. The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse world. Available at: http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/14/hdr2013_en_complete.pdf

    UNDP. (2003).Evaluation of UNDP’s Role In The PRSP Process. Available at: http://www.jposc.org/documents/evaluation_of%20the%20role%20of%20UNDP%20in%20the%20PRSP%20Process.pdf

    Woods, Z. (1995). Women IMF and World Bank Structural Adjustment Programs and Their Effects on Women. Available at:http://www.iisd.org/youth/ysbk077.htm

    Yardley, J. (2013). Garment Trade Wields Power in Bangladesh. The New York Times. (July 24, 2013). Available at : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/world/asia/garment-trade-wields-power-in-bangladesh.html?_r=0

     

     

  • GreenGrade Stories Posted on 2013-12-18 17:36:47 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    Here we examine the dynamics between buyers, factories and ethical compliance requirements

    The apparel companies from developed nations place the bulk of their garment orders with manufacturers in less developed countries where the cost of production is lowest. Since the Second World War East Asian countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh have increased their garment exports as foreign investments have flooded in due to price-competitiveness. This has contributed to diminishing poverty by creating employment, which helps the workers to financially support their families and relatives.  It is important to remember that from a trade perspective a drop in wage could expand both the production and exports known as a ‘race to the bottom’ or ‘immiserizing growth’.

    These concepts started dominating the textile sector after the termination of Multi-fibre Arrangement (MFA) in 2004 when the international garment trade was opened up and consequently heightened the price-competiveness. This led the retailers or buyers to demand lower prices, shorter lead times and better credit terms from the suppliers. The suppliers were reluctant to negotiate a better deal for fear of losing their clients and thus found factories in low wage countries which were more economical but often had significantly more non-compliances.

    Facing pressure from NGOs and the media, retailers are now introducing better ethical standards to their supply chains which are also hoped to impact their reputation as responsible companies.

    Western buyers are used to paying less but seeing as the workers only get 3-5% of the profits, even if their wages are doubled the price difference for the final product would be negligible. Most of the bigger retail giants have codes of conduct on their Corporate Responsibility policies highlighting their ‘fair pricing strategy’ but the challenge is that most of them have more than eight tier supply chain and it is not possible to monitor and verify all stages throughout these supplier factories.  

    Companies like H&M and Marks & Spencer have already announced their intention to raise the minimum wages of the workers in their factories. H&M will decide on the ‘living wage’ for its producers following a GAP analysis between wages and the cost of living for their factories situated in Bangladesh and Cambodia. Following the series of accidents in the garment factories, retailers have shown keen interest in endorsing projects to improve the work environment.

    As governments are in charge of establishing the minimum wages of a country, they must take into consideration the international competiveness of the wages they set. It is apparent that if the wages increased after a certain level then the international buyers will shift their orders toward other countries with lower labour costs. In such a situation it is the multinational companies who need to support the government by agreeing to absorb a certain rate of increase. 

    As mentioned by economist Paul Krugman, increase in wage is against the law of demand and supply. It is a basic concept that when the price of a certain commodity increases, the demand decreases. Countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia have been winning contracts due to their cheap labour and from the factories’ perspective, they need to have a good inflow of orders to keep such factories alive.

    The law of economies will force the factories to eliminate labour as the price fluctuates. Following the increase in Minimum Wages of Bangladesh, the director of Simco Dresses Ltd from Bangladesh, Khurrum Siddique said “Increasing productivity is the only way to survive. It’s almost impossible for the industry to sustain this level of staffing at the new wage level”. Moreover, he also mentioned that he is expecting to shed about 700 or 10% of his workers in order to install new and improved machinery.

    Increase in wage shifts more pressure on the factories then their buyers. A substantial increase would only force the factories to specialise in higher value products with greater profits. This in turn would lead in loss of jobs. From a macro perspective the sudden increase in wage leads to a vicious cycle. The following figure gives an approximate scenario that could rise due to sudden increase in wage particularly in developing nations with low-wages.

    The impact of raising the minimum wage depends on various factors and differs from the stakeholder’s perspective. In countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia with the lowest minimum wage, such a hike should not eliminate their price-competiveness completely. In the fear of economic downfall and labour unrest, governments try to set policies that are lucrative for exports but these policies can only be optimized by the buyers sharing some responsibility on the improve in labour conditions.

    If buyers like H&M and Marks & Spencers continue to promote better wages in the developing countries whilst guaranteeing an increase in their orders then the wage hike will have a strong positive impact on the economy and labour. If the buyers do not share the cost by guaranteeing orders, then the change in price would have an adverse change in demand and as much as we want to see fair prices for all workers in developing countries, it is unfair to push wages too high as their production will ultimately become less attractive to foreign buyers.

  • Posted on 2013-10-23 11:19:56 UTC Posted by GreenGrade Staff Member

    After days of worker unrest forced the closure of hundreds of factories, Bangladesh garment manufacturers agreed to a $68 (BDT 5300) minimum monthly wage for the country's four million garment workers. The new wage base will lead to rises across the board in Bangladesh, yet the RMG workers will still remain amongst the lowest paid in the world.

    Since early 1990’s Bangladesh has risen to become one of the largest exporters of ready-made garments (RMG) in the world, second only to China. By 2013 roughly 4 million people, mostly women, work in this £19 billion-a-year industry with sixty percent of exports going to Europe, and roughly 40% going to America. After the April collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex killed more than 1,100 people in the country’s worst industrial disaster, the South Asian nation has struggled to improve its international reputation amidst claims of dire working conditions, rampant corruption and poverty-level wages.

    Encouraged by international pressure, recent pay hikes in Cambodian factories and in view of the looming general elections, workers’ representatives have put forward back in October a demand for $100 (BDT 7800) a month. Tension between factory owners and the factory workers mounted, and reached a boiling point, resulting in clashes and disruption of production in many areas. The BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) has presented a counter proposal for $54 (BDT 4200) per month as it was concerned that too high a wage would turn buyers away and undermine the sector’s economic attractiveness.  In response, the Bangladesh Wage Board put forth a proposal for $68 (BDT 5300) per month in attempt to find some middle ground.

    The final agreement came after the manufacturers met the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina who ordered them to implement the wages recommended by the government's Minimum Wage Board panel, effective December 1st. Articles published by various media such as; The Guardian, WallStreet Journal, Aljazeera America  , Saudi Gazette and many more say that this decision was highly influenced by international pressure, political unrest and the economic downfall due to lockouts. Following the official announcement, the workers belonging to the labour union supporting the existing government returned to work and accepted the new minimum wage whereas the workers affiliated to the left-leaning groups supporting the opposition party rejected the new wage as it is far below the original demand.

    Despite the sector’s 77% wage increase, Bangladesh will continue to be the nation with the lowest minimum wage for RMG workers, behind even Vietnam and Cambodia. The table below shows the new minimum wage of Bangladesh in comparison to its Asian counterparts. 

    The hike in the minimum wage is likely to improve the lives of 4 million workers, but it may make buying Bangladesh garments less competitive to international buyers when the rising costs of labour are passed on to them. It remains to be seen what the effects will be on retailers such as H&M that announced plans to increase their business in Bangladesh by 10-15 % per annum over the coming years. Along with other retailers, they suggest that a proper system of review should be established for the minimum wage which accounts for both the national inflation and consumer-price index needs to be implemented. This, they say would be in the country’s best interest to develop, advance and mature their textile industry.

    Nevertheless, many factories – especially those that produce sweaters and children wear - have increased their prices per piece by an average of 12%-22% as of May 2013 in anticipation with the minimum wage rise. This, in turn, will trigger in a moderate price rise of around 10-15% by wholesalers and buying agents.