Desk Report: Social Accountability International (SAI), together with technology partner Vertru, held a virtual event for the launch of its FairCapacity Platform in Bangladesh on January 31, 2022. The event featured speakers from SAI, GSCS International Ltd., the European Union, the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Team Group, Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Fair Labor Association (FLA), Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), Entrust Fashions Ltd., Renaissance Group, and Vertru.
The FairCapacity Platform seeks to aid suppliers with their production capacity measurement and planning, encourage responsible subcontracting, and help forge better buyer-supplier relationships. The Platform connects buyers and suppliers, giving buyers greater visibility into their supply chains and rewarding responsible suppliers with access to buyers. It includes a Production Capacity Calculator and a mechanism for improving capacity measurement and forecasting practices. Buyers and suppliers are now able to register for the platform and use the available features.
The launching event was moderated by Mr. Abdul Alim, President & CEO- Sustainable Management System Inc. and Lead Trainer- Social Accountability International (SAI) while Mr. Abdul Mottaleb, Founder and Managing Director of GSCS International Ltd. opened the event with remarks about the need for transparency and accuracy in apparel manufacturing. “Unrealistic production capacity calculation leads to excessive overtime, unsafe accommodation of contractual workers, unauthorized subcontracting to under-regulated factories, and more,” he said. “Transparent capacity calculation will ultimately build a transparent and strong business relationship with stakeholders.”
Dr. Hans Lambrecht, Team Leader of Education, Human Development, and PFM at the European Union Delegation to Bangladesh continued the event, noting the Platform’s ability to promote progress toward global sustainable development and economic growth. “The Platform is relevant to the needs of buyers and suppliers as it intends to introduce a systemic change in global supply chain relationships through establishing stable buyer-supplier relationships, building mutual buyer-supplier responsibility and trust, and contributing to the regulatory protections for workers,” he said. “Promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns and decent work are key strategic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 8 and 9) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the new European Consensus on Development.”
The speaker discussion, with representatives from industry associations, suppliers, and NGOs, highlighted the challenges faced by garment manufacturers in Bangladesh during the COVID pandemic and how a technological approach can deliver solutions that benefit both businesses and workers. Addressing the declining number of women in the RMG industry, Nazma Yesmin, Director of Research and Development at BILS said: “COVID-19 has compelled workers to work under increased workloads. Now, meeting production targets has become more important than working hours, overtime, and even job security.”
Speakers also addressed factory conditions in Bangladesh. “Though [subcontractors’] existence is a reality and often critical, these smaller factories, mainly in informal setup, do not have the desired working conditions due to a lack of resources, capacities, awareness, and lack of independent oversight and government monitoring. We, GFEMS, recently commissioned a study which revealed that workers in such factories work under verbal agreement take different forms of wages – piece-based or weekly or monthly – work long hours without benefits, and sometimes live in the factory premises in unhealthy and unsafe conditions,” said Nasir Chowdhury, Bangladesh Country Manager at GFEMS. “But, for all of us – consumers, buyers, suppliers, subcontractors, workers – it is important to improve the conditions. We will all be benefited from that.”
Answering a question on how the industry can proceed in the future, Dr. Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director at CPD said: “The sector should focus on two areas, one is enhancing productivity and efficiency and the other is compliance with labor and human rights issues. The FairCapacity Platform addresses productivity, with its production capacity calculations, which is very needed.” Dr. Khondaker added, “At the same time, it is also important to comply with human rights and labor rights issues. Associations have a role to cooperate and help improve the efficiency and compliance of factories in the coming days.”
During the event, Jag Gill, CEO and Co-founder of Vertru Technologies led participants and speakers through a demonstration of the FairCapacity platform’s functionalities. Speakers then fielded questions from participants about how suppliers can sign up for and use the platform, how companies can benefit from using the platform long-term, and how business can reduce forced labor instances in the supply chain overall. The event ended with final regards to all of the esteemed speakers and notes from Stephanie Wilson, Associate Director of Innovation & Partnerships at SAI, about signing up and gaining access to the platform.