Comprehensive mapping of ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh
Mapped in Bangladesh
2 December 2022
The overarching goal was to provide industry stakeholders with real time, credible data concerning ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh via an interactive online platform that would enable greater accountability and transparency in supply chains and enhance confidence in the sector’s ability to contribute to equitable development.
The main objectives were:
- Brands to learn about additional locations where their products are being produced and support improvements to working conditions in those factories, including indirect suppliers and subcontracting factories.
- Workers to use mapping and data from the transparency initiative in negotiations and bargaining efforts.
- New policies to be implemented by the national government to instil the greater enforcement of existing laws and policies, once made aware of the presence of so-called invisible factories.
Worker-based rights organisations to use the map to focus their work on higher density factory areas.
Partner: BRAC University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED-BRACU)
Investment: EUR 1.72 million
Duration: 2017 to 2021
Geographic region: Bangladesh
Implemented during a challenging context, the digital map was a foundational research initiative with transparency ambitions
- The initiative has provided essential and basic research on locating ready-made garment factories within four districts in Bangladesh. It successfully put in place processes for data collection and validation. The Mapped in Bangladesh (MiB) platform published (in Dec 21) active BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association) member factories, along with 800 non-member exporting factories, comprising a total of 3,485 factories including the brands they produce for, their certifications and inspection status. This data has not previously been published. The map is a reliable source of information about RMG sector factories in Bangladesh.
- The MiB platform had approximately 52,000 visitors in 2021, of which 10% were returning users indicating interest in the site, and of these about 83% were from Bangladesh. Nevertheless, most decisionmakers and stakeholders are unaware of the map and of how the data within the map can be used.
- When the map has been accessed by stakeholders, it has largely been used as a ‘directory’ to look up individual factories. Journalists and labour inspectors have mainly used the map to look up basic information about factories’ locations and size. Users who have contacted MiB directly about additional information have mainly been academicians looking to use the data for research. Most of the factory representatives, trade union representatives and INGOs interviewed were not aware of the map or did not use it.
There is limited stakeholder awareness of the map and therefore its use and utility as a driver for change has yet to be fully realised
- Several stakeholders were unaware of the digital map. Brands and national authorities have shown limited interest. While the map shows location, size and ISO certification, and Accord / the Alliance membership, qualitative information about a factory’s compliance is not collected and disclosed.
- There was no reported evidence that the map is used by workers and the fact that the map is in English reduced the likelihood of workers using it at scale.
- Despite the positive interest shown in the map from almost all interviewees (trade union representatives, factories, INGOs and brands), the data displayed on MiB is only used by a few stakeholders, such as journalists and inspectors.
What did we learn?
- Securing buy-in and engagement from key actors and stakeholders in the initial stages of similar initiatives has supported the building of awareness, use and utility, and widens the sphere of influence.
- Data production and use is dependent on local contexts. Acknowledging the challenges around sharing and use before design and implementation is critical.
For Partners & Others
- For workers and local stakeholders to use the data, it is crucial that the map is available in the local language. Go beyond English.
- It is vital that the design of the initiative addresses the obstacles faced by workers and factories, as using the data for planning and campaigning is an essential pre-condition for use.
- Having a neutral and independent data provider and manager is key to the production of reliable data.
The fashion industry’s global supply chain is notoriously opaque and complex. The Bangladeshi apparel industry is a particularly complex aspect of that. Significant information gaps affect traceability, transparency, and accountability and several notable accidents, including the Tazreen Fashion Limited Fire, 2012, and the tragedy of Rana Plaza, 2013, have highlighted the need for authentic, verified, factory data including information on indirect sourcing and subcontracting to help hold brands accountable. The Mapped in Bangladesh project was initiated to strengthen accountability by addressing these information gaps. At the project’s inception, very little data on any factories was readily available in the public domain: the industry did not have an agreed definition of an apparel factory or even clarity on what or where the particular zones are. This made the ostensibly simple activity of location and tracing factories in the sector an enormously complex task.
Read the full management responce here.