Foreign minister says buyers take it all from Bangladesh

Bangladesh foreign minister has asked the global brands and retailers to fulfil their “responsibility” to ensure acceptable work standards in factories.

Published : 19 March 2015, 12:18 PM
Updated : 19 March 2015, 12:30 PM

“Ensuring decent work worldwide is about shared responsibility - for shared prosperity. It is about equity and fairness,” Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said on Thursday at a high-level conference in Dhaka.

He said countries like Bangladesh faced a situation in which “buyers take it all”, and global markets needed to appreciate the “circumstances, concerns and challenges” at manufacturing end.

“The current model of global supply chain has to look more deeply at sustainability and equity considerations,” he said.

The Danish government organised the meet on ‘RMG Industry and beyond: framing the future’ to mark two years of Bangladesh’s worst-ever building collapse at Rana Plaza.

The visiting Danish minister for trade and development, Mogens Jensen, opened the conference at a hotel.

The Rana Plaza accident, killing over 1,100 people, drew global attention to Bangladesh’s factory safety standards and workers’ rights concerns.

Bangladeshi suppliers accused global brands of not paying enough to help them spend on workers’ welfare.

The foreign minister was also critical about global chains but said the disaster “shook our ethos”.

The industry and the government “resolved to bring in changes - whatever might be necessary,” he said.

He, however, highlighted issues emerging in the global discussions ahead of the finalisation of the post-2015 development goals.

Some of the key issues, he said, related to addressing inequality, inclusive and sustainable growth, decent work, and inclusive industrialisation.

The minister made a few proposals to ensure sustainable businesses.

One was to deliver on “responsibility”.

“While profit drives business, endless profiteering in global supply chains at the expense of actual producers cannot go on.

“Supply chains must deliver on transparency, accountability, and ethics equitably,” he said.

He said global business was about “getting globalisation, global distribution and global development rights”.

“If that is so, then we cannot afford to fail on securing global justice, peace and stability through global business,” he said, before saying that the current model of global supply chain deal with “sustainability and equity considerations”.

He said all stakeholders need to deliver on their roles, responsibilities and commitments under ‘Responsible Business Conduct’.

“At the same time, if we the value human dimension of business, we must ponder over how to secure productivity as well as job-rich employment within a decent work agenda”.

The minister sought global support for “a broader dialogue” with all stakeholders within global supply chains.

“As norms, practices, or guidelines are considered, we would stress that they should be geared towards creating a truly level-playing field”.

Danish minister Jensen shared his views and also suggested how Bangladesh and Denmark could walk and work further together.

He acknowledged progresses in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, but said more needed to be done for factory safety and workers’ rights.

The foreign minister thanked Denmark for “reposing its confidence and trust in Bangladesh in our difficult times”.

“As Bangladesh engages in global conversations, please be assured that we do so with all global stakeholders at home and abroad in full trust and sincerity, in mutually beneficial and responsible manner,” he added.