Such cancellations were nothing if not unethical
It was good to see that a group of Bangladeshi garment suppliers, who were severely hit by the pandemic, have secured a rare victory in a $40 million lawsuit against US clothing giant Sears.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought untold misery to every economy; however, for Bangladesh, which relies so heavily on its RMG exports, this was particularly felt when foreign buyers kept cancelling orders in addition to failing to pay for orders already placed. For most of these orders, Bangladeshi suppliers were already deep into production, and had already incurred the majority of the costs.
Such cancellations were nothing if not unethical, and once again highlighted the inequality inherent within the global supply chain, where giant corporations from wealthy nations continue to take advantage of poorer and less powerful nations like Bangladesh.
While it is true that Bangladesh has had a long history of less-than-ideal conditions with regards to the RMG industry, including the mistreatment of its labour force, it would be foolish to point the finger at RMG factory owners alone. They must also be pointed at the buyers who, despite their vast resources, consistently exhibit penny-pinching behaviour, thereby putting pressure on the suppliers to get innovative with regards to minimizing costs of production.
Furthermore, since the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, Bangladesh has certainly done its part in increasing the safety standards of its factories, and now boasts the world’s largest number of green factories as certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Wages of workers have also been increased -- whether or not to satisfactory levels is a conversation we continue to have.
However, unless these efforts are recognized by the buyers, and our RMG products receive a fair price, companies may be compelled to try and cut corners. As such, more must be done to put pressure on buyers to hold up their end of the bargain, so that they too are held accountable.