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31 Ene 2023


Bangladesh: The need for a just transition in the garment industry has not yet led to 'meaningful' action, study finds

"Just Transition in the Garment Industry in Bangladesh", January 2023

Addressing the burden that the clothing and textile industry currently places on the planet will require fundamental changes in the ways clothes and textiles are made and used...these changes are likely to fundamentally alter employment in the sector: some jobs will be relocated to other countries or continents, some jobs will require new skills and some jobs will be lost altogether...

For this report we conducted interviews with workers from three garment factories in Bangladesh...While the worst effects of the pandemic had already eased and the structural changes of the industry are not yet visible, the workers were already struggling with problems caused by the energy crisis and high inflation...

The concept of climate change was not that clear to the workers, but they were very familiar with its consequences. Some were themselves climate migrants who had had to relocate because the areas where they used to live were flooded repeatedly while other areas are facing drought with rivers also drying up. The impacts of climate change can be felt also in their current jobs in the garment industry as summers have gotten longer with scorching hot and humid weather.

The salaries in the industry are well below the living wage level, meaning workers cannot afford to put money aside for a rainy day...If and when the change begins to materialise, the workers have few alternative employment options. Many said that they would basically take any job they could get, but that realistically they could only find employment in the informal sector.

The need for fundamental changes in the industry has not yet led to action on a meaningful scale, and it is not seen as an immediate threat to the current situation...industry actors and stakeholders do not seem to be preparing for the ecological transition ahead. NGO representatives who were interviewed for this report were sceptical about any significant decrease in garment and textile sector jobs in Bangladesh due to a decrease in demand. At best, job losses based on decrease in demand were seen as a distant possibility. One of the main industry responses to the environmental issues in the sector in Bangladesh has so far been so-called “green factories”. However, requirements such as LEED certification alone seem insufficient to address the sector’s climate impacts.

The workshop discussions with Finnish companies...confirmed that while they have set goals to reduce their emissions, implementing these in the value chain is challenging and still in an early phase, which for its part explains why the pressure for the change is not yet visible in Bangladesh. According to the companies that participated in the workshop, cooperation between buying companies is needed to create leverage to effectively push for changes in production. Some companies said that they are looking for less emission-intensive options for production, which could be a warning sign that for individual factories – especially those who cannot report or reduce their emissions – the reductions in orders can materialise suddenly...

Lessons learned from the issues caused by the pandemic and insights from the recent interviews with the workers highlight the need for the upcoming transition to be well-planned and just. The measures the international clothing brands will have to under take to reduce their emissions may lead to a variety of changes in their operations and in their value chains. As companies plan these actions, they need to involve their suppliers and the workers of those suppliers in the process from the start. Trade unions must also be recognised as a relevant stakeholder in the process. This is the only way the transition can be just for the workers, giving them an early opportunity to plan their life choices well ahead.