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Digital Mapping Initiative Aims to Boost Transparency in Bangladeshi Garment Sector

Image Credit: C&A Foundation

With its sights set on reducing the social and environmental impacts of its garment sector, Bangladesh has launched an initiative to map all of its apparel factories.

Implemented by Dhaka’s BRAC University’s Center for Entrepreneurship Development in collaboration with BRAC USA, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and C&A Foundation, the Digital RMG Factory Mapping in Bangladesh (DRFM-B) project is the first of its kind to attempt to digitally map the entire garment industry in Bangladesh and marks a critical industry shift toward more transparency. DRFM-B will be guided by a multi-stakeholder Project Advisory Committee, including representatives of workers, NGOs, employers and industry associations.

“This project will send a strong signal to all stakeholders that transformative change is happening within the ready-made garment sector. Through its mapping and relationship building, DRFM-B will fuel Bangladesh’s garment industry advancements, inspire shared responsibility, responsible sourcing, collective action and builds upon pre-existing improvement efforts through informed decision-making,” said Parveen S. Huda, Project Manager of DRFM-B.

The project will see the collection of comprehensive and accurate data on factories across Bangladesh — the names, locations, numbers of workers, product type, export country, certifications and brand customers — and disclose it in a publicly available online map. Verification will be crowdsourced from the public to ensure that the information remains up-to-date and accurate.

“DRFM-B is driven by the fundamental belief that transparency and traceability lead to long-term industry advancements and improved working conditions. By funding this project, we aim to increase industry accountability to transform fashion into a force for good,” said Naureen Chowdhury, Program Manager of Supply Chain Innovation and Transformation at C&A Foundation.

The garment industry has constituted a large component of the Bangladeshi economy for over 30 years, making it the world’s second largest garment-producing country. Through the implementation of DRFM-B, the BRAC USA, GMEA and C&A Foundation hope to prevent another Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,100 people when the building in which they were working collapsed.

“This transparency initiative would significantly complement our ongoing efforts towards enhanced, more risk-averse supply chains. We believe it will empower stakeholders across the industry, including workers, factory authority, brands, government and civil society organizations to create positive changes and strengthen the effectiveness of improvements already underway. We hope this will be instrumental toward establishing a strong marketing and branding tool for the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh through increased accessibility of information,” said Mr. Md. Siddiqur Rahman, President of BGMEA.

The public map will go live in mid-2018 with the Dhaka cluster. The final version of the map featuring all 20 Bangladeshi garment-producing districts is expected to be completed by mid-2021.

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