Beximco factory, Bangladesh4 years ago
We get a lot of questions regarding the working conditions and other social issues in Beximco. The media is full of pessimistic stories from Bangladesh factories and it is a big concern for all of us to know what are we actually supporting when making an order from them. Why not pull the production of clothes back to Europe or US where we can control the situation better?
Here’s our why. Take a moment to read and understand the bigger picture.
Bangladesh is considered to be one of the least developed countries having deep rooted socio-economic problems coupled with one of the densest population on earth adding on top of it. Our team has been visiting Dhaka and Beximco for many times now. When you go there, the meaning of this least developing country becomes apparently vivid. You can experience firsthand the textbook scenario of poverty and insolvent lifestyle right at the initial interaction. But the moment that you enter the industrial park of Beximco, the picture changes radically. A US congressman George Miller visiting the site last May said it reminds him of an average US university campus. The buildings are low and spread across the 250 acres of land spanning the industrial park including limited accommodation for its staff members and even a wild life sanctuary. The company is mature enough and doesn’t have a need to rush for fast expansion by building extra stories on top of old buildings and risking the buildings to collapse, like it was the case for the Rana plaza incident we all no so well by now. With its full proof fire and building safety arrangements using state of the art production equipments, Beximco remains one of the largest vertically integrated textiles and garments industries in South East Asia.
The industrial park includes 12 textile and garment processing factories with around 35 000 employees working side be side with each other. Khalid Raihan, the Head of Administration for the Garments division who is responsible for the well-being of some 28 000 people is also heading the Beximco upcycling team, has been a good and trustworthy friend for us in every sense. Seeing their work from aside on daily basis gives a rather good glimpse of the situation that the company has to deal with on daily basis, the problems sometimes rising to extraordinary scales a modern company in Europe can hardly imagine. For example, making the 35000 employees upset about their salaries being late due to the money transporting vehicle from the main city not getting through the general strike in the streets of Dhaka is not an easy situation to be handled, a story going through the media in March. Looking at the facts and figures brought out of the wider context by the media, it’s easy to misunderstand the real situation.
Keeping the production volumes stable so that all these 35000 employees can have their salaries on time every month is a big challenge, very strongly influenced by the global brands Beximco works for. PHV, Walmart, H&M, American Eagle, Macy’s are just some of those carrying out regular audits, at times through third parties like Bureau VERITAS to see if the company matches the standards set by each of them. Beximco complies with social criteria defined by GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard) that are built on the criteria enforced by ILO. Beximco has relatively much higher salary level including number of bonuses and allowances compared to the average in the country. The employees also enjoy several other social benefits that is not a usual standard in the country: free medical service, sports and cultural programme for neighbouring community, as well as child care, preschool & medical facilities for workers’ families.
Again, giving the facts and figures do not really speak the full story compared to experiencing the full range of issues on site. But there are many stories to tell that do explain it better. Recently I witnessed a conversation between a Dr. Gisela Burckhardt from Clean Clothes Campaign approaching Khalid with many negative and strong arguments about the garments industry in Bangladesh. After one hour talk, the lady was rather surprised to find many of the arguments have a rather different explanation. A month later she paid a visit to Beximco in Dhaka leaving the place with full convincement that there are also positive stories to be found from the country.
The most important message behind this story is that when a least developed country earns 80% of it’s export income from textile and garments industries making a change in the lives of 4 million people and their families then pulling back the production from there is not an option helping anybody. The only way that we can help is to find out constructive and intelligent ways to overcome the social and environmental issues without compromising the regular income they need to feed their families.
Our up-shirt project is one example of such cooperation where all sides can win.
See more about Beximco: Beximco presentation.pptx and an interview with Shaikh Khalid Raihan: