The Netherlands Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Report: Conference Sustainable Sourcing in the Garment Sector

On 29 September 2016, the conference on Sustainable Sourcing in the Garment Sector (SSGS) took place in Dhaka. SSGS convened 380 high-profile participants from over 190 organizations, to discuss sustainable versus unsustainable sourcing and showcase new sourcing practices that would be beneficial to all stakeholders in the garment value chain. The conference report is now available for download.

SSGS Dhaka, Executive Summary

The conference on Sustainable Sourcing in the Garment Sector (SSGS) aimed to emphasize the need to advance a common understanding on sustainable sourcing practices in the garment sector, through promoting multi-stakeholder cooperation and presenting best practices. Amongst the representatives were officials from the Government of Bangladesh and the Netherlands, Corps Diplomatique, NGO’s, International Organizations, academics, international buyers and brands, as well as suppliers. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, was present for a keynote speech. SSGS was intended as a follow-up to the Asian Living Wage Conference (ALWC), which was organized by the governments of the Netherlands, Germany and Pakistan in May 2016. Whilst ALWC specifically addressed the possibilities of realizing living wages through social dialogue, SSGS emphasized the need to develop a better understanding of sustainable sourcing practices involving both buyers and suppliers.

The business models and purchasing practices of international brands may carry social and environmental risks in their own operations as well as in their supply chain. The OECD has indicated that enterprises with numerous and highly diversified product lines are generally more exposed to a wider range of risk due to the variance in materials and production processes. When brands produce numerous cycles or seasons per year, products are taken from design to production on shorter time frames. In turn, these short time frames may contribute to adverse impacts such as excessive overtime, forced overtime and unauthorized outsourcing. In addition, numerous product cycles can lead to increased use of materials and resources, eventually resulting in a larger water and waste footprint.

Bangladesh is one of the leading sourcing destinations for garments in the world. During the past years, it has shown an enormous amount of resilience in terms of addressing issues like child labour, work place safety and environmental sustainability. To keep its economic momentum, there is a growing need for long-term partnerships and collaboration between buyers and suppliers.

The conference sessions highlighted the urge to replace the presence of so-called price and lead time squeezes with a fair model for pricing and transparency. It was asserted that ‘sustainable price squeezes’ need to be achieved through advancing technology, productivity and vertical integration. Hence, for Bangladesh to compete with other producing countries, more attention is needed on higher production quality and the diversification of the Bangladesh product basket, market and structure. Whilst suppliers should invest in developing the capacity of their workers and mid-level management, international brands and buyers should invest in better strategic partnerships by sharing their knowledge and expertise on innovation and fashion design. Lastly, whilst Bangladesh has the ambition to grow its future export to 50 billion USD by 2021, speakers and participants all agreed an employment figure needs to be added to this target. To sustain long-term improvements throughout the supply chain, it is imperative to include trade unions in the discussions surrounding stability, productivity and efficiency.

SSGS was organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in partnership with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and the International Apparel Federation (IAF). The implementing partners were the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange and Nash International.

The official website of the Conference on Sustainable Sourcing in the Garment Sector is http://ssgs-bd.com/ 

SSGS Conference documentary

Conference on Sustainable Sourcing in Garment Sector - Dhaka - 29 September 2016 from RedOrange on Vimeo.