Bangladesh supplier: time for all brands to be transparent

brett mathews | 15th March 2019

LONDON – If we can use product labelling to show consumers exactly where our food comes from, why can’t we do the same with our apparel? That was the question raised by prominent Bangladesh apparel sector entrepreneur, Mostafiz Uddin, talking at a leading UK conference on sustainability this week. In a strongly worded address, Uddin told the audience the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh has taken huge strides in upgrading and becoming safer – and suggested it is now time for apparel brands and retailers to step up to the plate and illustrate complete transparency.

“Yes, we have seen change since Rana Plaza, but it is not enough,” Uddin told the audience at this week’s Drapers Sustainability Conference. “If you look at Bangladesh, we have more than 4,000 garment factories. Each and every one of them has been audited. These factories have nothing to fear now and are comfortable with transparency. I hear that brands are demanding transparency but if there really was a demand, the industry would already be fully transparent. So what are we waiting for?”

The answer, as we all know, is that some high streets brands continue to drag their heels on this pressing industry issue. Yet, Uddin made the notable point that, in actual fact, it is often progressive brands such as Marks & Spencer and H&M  who get shot down on sustainability issues. “This is wrong,” he said. “We have to stop this culture and instead focus on the brands which are not transparent and who are holding the industry back.”

This is a very telling point. A cursory glance at the most recent Fashion Revolution Transparency Index shows there are dozens of brands still not making their supply chains public. These include Forever 21, Lacoste, Khols, Valentino, Ross Stores and Amazon. Many brands continue to disclose absolutely nothing of their supply chains, yet somehow manage to escape the spotlight.

Uddin also addressed the issue of why some brands still continue to be evasive on this issue. “We need to know everything, and the data needs to be made available to the public,” he said. “Is this possible? Before this conference I purchased some food. The packaging told me exactly where the egg came from, where the chicken came from. If we can do that with food why can’t we do that with apparel? We need urgent action on this, otherwise we will carry on having these same conferences and discussions.”