2nd Sustainable Apparel Forum in Bangladesh

In the beginning of November 2019, the AGT was invited to participate in two events in Bangladesh. On November 4th, the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka hosted a Round Table on the importance of purchasing practices and its effect on sustainability.
© Sustainable Apparel Forum

On November 5th, the AGT took part in one of the panel sessions at the 2nd edition of the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) in Bangladesh. The AGT was represented by Marijke Willemsen from WE Fashion and Jef Wintermans from the AGT Secretariat.

During the Round Table at the Embassy, Jef Wintermans highlighted the working of the AGT and the experience of the AGT regarding the importance of purchasing practices when it comes to supporting companies in implementing due diligence and thereby identifying, preventing, reducing and mitigating negative impacts in their supply chain. Marijke Willemsen then explained the way in which WE Fashion integrates Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) in line with the OECD Guidelines and the AGT requirements in its buying practices.

The 2nd edition of the SAF brought together many representatives of companies, ngo’s, labour unions, governments and international organisations that are active in Bangladesh. The representatives of the Bangladeshi industry had a clear message to the participants. They shared a feeling of discomfort for not receiving sufficient credit for the many improvements that have been realised over the last years, they would like to see their competitors in neighbouring countries being held to the same standards as they are and they pointed out that it is increasingly difficult for Bangladeshi manufacturers to live up to ever increasing demands regarding RBC while at the same time being confronted with ever lower prices being paid for new orders. Increasingly, Bangladeshi manufacturers understand that progress in that area partially also depends on their willingness to speak up against the CEO’s of buying companies and address any discrepancies between the stated RBC policies of buyers and their actual purchasing practices.

In the panel on purchasing practices, the Bangladeshi industry clearly expressed itself in favour of one harmonised, global approach to RBC. Jef Wintermans referred to the OECD Guidelines as being just that: the global reference for assessing whether companies live up to their responsibilities, which also create room for addressing systemic issues collectively.

In all, the 2nd edition of the SAF provided evidence of the change that is going on in Bangladesh when it comes to working towards a more responsible and sustainable future for the industry. Contrary to several years ago, various stakeholders engaged in dialogue publicly, recognizing each’ others role in that process and constructively responding to each’ others needs and worries.

The contributions of Jef Wintermans to the Round Table as well as the panel at the SAF can be found here .