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15 Sep 2022

Myanmar: New frameworks devised on how brands & retailers should responsibly exit after research finds ‘normal’ due diligence ‘impossible’ following military takeover

IndustriALL Global Union

In September 2022, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) published the findings of an assessment conducted by Due Diligence Design, with the support of SHIFT and IMPACTT, on human rights and responsible business conduct within Myanmar following the military takeover, which began on 1 February 2021.

The report concluded that due to the situation, companies are unlikely to be able to engage in meaningful consultations with workers or their representatives about their working conditions, and thus, it is nearly impossible for brands to conduct normal human rights due diligence.

In its recommendations, the ETI stated that, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights, clothing brands and retailers should reconsider their presence in the country, and during this period must refrain from making any additional investments in Myanmar. If companies choose to remain, they must demonstrate how they are meeting and respecting internationally recognised human rights. If companies choose to exit Myanmar, they must do so responsibly, and in consultation with social partners.

Following the report, Primark and Marks & Spencer publicly announced their exit from Myanmar in September and October 2022.

In February 2023, IndustriALL Global Union and a number of garment brands with operations in Myanmar have jointly developed a framework for a responsible exit from the country. The document as an agreement on what would constitute a responsible exit include guidelines on what brands should do in deciding, preparing and implementing their exit plans.

Company Responses

Marks & Spencer View Response