On Tuesday, June 5th, USA-ITA and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), an Associate Member of USA-ITA, hosted an informative webinar on sourcing and compliance in Bangladesh. Our most popular webinar to date, “View from the Ground: Challenges & Solutions for Sourcing & Compliance in Bangladesh” discussed opportunities in Bangladesh—and importantly, what companies can do to source compliantly there. Over 100 individuals registered for the webinar, and we had both sourcing executives from major U.S. brands and retailers, as well as suppliers and service providers from Bangladesh and elsewhere, on the call.
Avedis Seferian, President & CEO of WRAP, discussed WRAP’s on-the-ground work in Bangladesh and what companies can do to ensure compliance, especially when it comes to fire safety.
WRAP's Avedis Seferian, center left, at a fire safety training course in Bangladesh.
(Photo courtesy of WRAP)
A few key facts from his presentation:
- Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world, with 160,000,000 in 57,000 square miles. This contributes to some of the challenges, especially in the manufacturing sector, but also to Bangladesh’s competitive advantage.
- One of the major challenges in the apparel sector in Bangladesh is fire safety. Often, factories are housed in buildings that are not meant for industrial use—and smoke inhalation causes the most deaths in factory fires. Many factory owners are unwilling to move due to a lack of infrastructure, and the government is more focused on the infrastructure issues rather than the compliance issues.
- In September 2011, WRAP launched a fire safety training course in Bangladesh to deal with factory fires, and has since run over a dozen courses and trained over 400 people.
- Importers should look for factories that have good quality management systems—because this often means they’ll have good compliance management systems, too. In this case, quality and compliance often go hand in hand. Importers should look for supporting documentation, and also factories that continuously educate employees. (WRAP certification is another sign. There are 246 WRAP-certified factories in Bangladesh.)
- If you’re looking to invest in Bangladesh, engage with the factories and work with local institutions to build up capabilities.
WRAP conducts hands-on fire safety training in Bangladesh.
(Photo courtesy of WRAP)
Following Mr. Seferian’s presentation, USA-ITA Washington Counsel David Spooner of Squire Sanders gave a brief overview on the status of duty-free benefits for Bangladesh, and other Southeast Asian nations. The Asia–South Pacific Trade Preference Act would grant trade benefits to Bangladesh, Cambodia, and 11 other nations, is unfortunately showing no signs of movement on the Hill. You can download the PDF presentation here.
The webinar concluded with an in-depth Q&A session, which is included in the recording.
We’re thankful to Avedis Seferian, David Spooner, and the entire WRAP and Squire Sanders teams for their time and expertise for what was an incredibly informative webinar. For more information on WRAP and their work in Bangladesh and around the world, visit http://www.wrapapparel.org/.