Bangladesh: supporting our suppliers

23 May 2013

Bangladesh Apparel Skills Foundation and Partnership for Cleaner Textiles

Read a blog by Kevin Grace, our Group Commercial Director, on Tesco and the Bangladesh garment industry

Last year we exported £310 million worth of products from Bangladesh. Beyond providing jobs and skills training, we are committed to helping increase the long-term competitiveness, safety and sustainability of the ready-made garment industry in the country. Two of the projects we are involved in focus on employment rights and opportunities and water use management.

Bangladesh Apparel Skills Foundation:

Developed by Tesco and jointly supported by Tesco and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) challenge fund, the Apparel Skills Foundation’s programmes supports factories to improve their people management, ethical leadership and new production techniques. Key initiatives include reducing long working hours, giving workers productivity bonuses and implementing mentoring and buddy systems for new workers.

In May 2012, we launched a pilot programme in three factories and we are already beginning to see some promising results. Workers’ pay per hour has gone up by 19%, monthly working hours are down 16%, labour turnover is down 45%, absenteeism is down 25% and efficiency is up 20% on the pilot line. The Foundation (since renamed ‘Solutions for Management International’), is open to all garment producers in Bangladesh, whether or not they supply Tesco. By the end of 2015 we expect to provide training to over 100 factories with the potential to improve the lives of up to 250,000 garment workers in Bangladesh.

Supported by DfID and working together with five other retailers we are trialling other methods of improving productivity, reducing hours and increasing wages in Bangladesh and India. This project – the Benefits for Business and Workers programme – has been shortlisted for the Guardian Sustainability Award.

Partnership for Cleaner Textiles

Together with other brands and retailers, we have participated in a pilot project for cleaner production of textiles in Bangladesh. Textile washing, dyeing and finishing currently use large amounts of water, energy and chemicals. The pilot project in 18 fabric mills has saved an annual equivalent of 300 million litres of water, 19,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas
emissions and £520,000. In the coming year, we will scale up our operations to become part of the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT) and aim to reach the entire dyeing and wet finishing sector in the country. Working in collaboration with 20 of our nominated suppliers and other brands and retailers in Bangladesh, we are investing £130,000 in the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles Program over the next four years. Run by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) our goal is to establish a world class water, energy and chemical management practice. We are sharing our learnings openly with our industry colleagues both within the country and in other regions.