Organisations in the Bangladesh garment industry are collaborating to create a publicly available digital map to bring transparency through the supply chain and stop labour abuses.
Digital RMG Factory Mapping in Bangladesh (DRFM-B) is a new project that will collect “credible, comprehensive and accurate data” on factories across Bangladesh and release it as a publicly available online map, announced C&A Foundation, the corporate arm of Dutch retail group C&A.
The project will be managed and implemented by Dhaka’s BRAC University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, said the C&A Foundation, with partners including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Bangladesh’s garment sector, worth around $28bn per year and employing 4m people, has come under scrutiny after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in 2013 that killed more than 1,100 workers.
A boiler explosion reported last month in SM, which killed 13 people at a plant operated by Aldi supplier Multifabs, renewed calls for more transparency and implementation of labour laws in the country.
Campaigners criticised retailers for failing to improve working conditions in their supply chains, with long hours, low pay and poor safety standards a common complain from garment workers.
Parveen S Huda, DRFM-B project manager, said the project was part of efforts to force transparency from big manufacturers about their supply chains.
“The mapping project will fuel Bangladesh’s garment industry advancements, inspire shared responsibility, responsible sourcing, collective action and build upon pre-existing improvement efforts through informed decision-making,” he said.
Project managers will collect data on the country’s factories – including names, locations, number of workers, product types, export countries, certification and brand customers – and disclose the information online, according to the C&A Foundation.
To ensure the information remains current and correct, verification will also be crowd-sourced from the public.
Siddiqur Rahman, BGMEA president, said the initiative would bring greater visibility to the country’s garment sector and could help stave off disasters like Rana Plaza.
“This transparency initiative would significantly complement our on-going efforts towards enhanced, more risk-averse supply chains,” he said.
“We believe it will empower stakeholders across the industry, including workers, factory authority, brands, government and civil society organisation to create positive changes and strengthen the effectiveness of improvements already underway.”
The first public map is scheduled to go live in 2018 in the Dhaka region and the final version of the map showcasing all 20 Bangladeshi garment producing districts is expected to be completed by 2021.