Promotion of social and environmental standards in the industry

Project description

Title: Promotion of social and environmental standards in the industry
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Bangladesh
Lead executing agency: Bangladesh Ministry of Commerce
Overall term: 2010 to 2017

Bangladesh. Seamstresses at work in a factory. © GIZ

The garment sector is booming. Designs are created in Europe, the cotton comes from Africa or the USA, and this is then processed into fabric in China before being sewn together in Asia. The T-shirts that end up in shops in Europe have already travelled the world.

As one of the largest players in the garment sector, Bangladesh is at the very centre of this globalised industry and very much a focus of public attention. Within just two decades, the country has become the world’s second-largest exporter of garments after China. The 5,000 or so textile factories in Bangladesh employ around four million people, most of whom are women from poor households.
However, the era of rapid growth at any cost is now over, not least due to consumer pressure in Europe and the USA, which has raised awareness of the importance of labour and social standards.
There are clear legal requirements for employers to comply with social and environmental standards, but the vast majority of businesses are unable to put these standards in place. State actors require expertise, human resources and equipment to implement the laws. In factories and tanneries there is insufficient knowledge and a lack of skilled staff who are familiar with social and environmental standards.

Entrepreneurs in the textile, garment and leather sector adhere to national environmental and labour laws and to international standards. The focus here is on those laws and standards that safeguard workers’ rights, including provisions for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Cambodia. © GIZ
In order to improve social and environmental standards in textile factories, the project’s experts are cooperating with all the different interest groups, including ministries, employers’ associations, factories, international buyers, non-governmental organisations and trade unions. For example, it is working with the International Labor Organization on training state labour inspectors, who will then inspect factories. Women’s cafés are being set up to communicate with female employees. Here, women are informed about their rights and given support in asserting these rights. Project experts are targeting factory management via the major employers’ associations in the garment and leather sector, and working directly with managers on improving social and environmental standards. The inclusion of people with disabilities is being promoted by means of a job centre set up specifically for this purpose. The project is building on the activities carried out by its predecessor.


Social standards

  • More than 800 factories are now demonstrably better at adhering to national labour laws and the ILO’s international standards.
  • 300 labour inspectors have been trained and over 2,000 inspections have been carried out.
  • 19 women’s cafés have been set up, in which female staff receive information about their rights and are given support in asserting these rights in their factories. 20,000 female staff have also been trained in the cafés to act as trainers on employee rights.
  • Teams of advisors have been attached to two major employers’ associations in the textile sector. These teams advise factories on implementing labour and social standards and also run training courses on this subject.
  • Around 250 people in middle management have completed a six-month diploma course on implementing social standards.

Environmental standards

  • 200 factories have significantly improved their environmental management in areas such as sewage treatment, chemical management and energy consumption, including over 20 factories working in leather manufacturing and processing.
  • A draft law on classifying and treating industrial sludge devised in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forests has been adopted. Inspectors are being given training on this new law.

Inclusion of people with disabilities

  • Around 130 factories have implemented measures to integrate people with disabilities – for example, by creating barrier-free access to buildings.
  • 290 men and women with disabilities have been successfully trained to work in sewing workshops and as supervisors.
  • 120 people with disabilities who are interested in working in the garment sector have registered at the job centre specifically set up for this purpose. Here, they are given advice and training and/or placed in employment.

Bangladesh. A trainer talks to seamstresses about their employee rights. © GIZ