Case study on the governance of labour standards in Bangladesh’s garment industry

Oeko-Institut Working Paper 4/2017

Bangladesh’s garment industry is a key driver of the country’s economy and development, employing around four million people and accounting for over 80 percent of the nation’s export earnings (ILO, 2016a). At the same time, a series of fatal factory incidents has highlighted the sector’s deplorable working conditions and has exposed international retailers and fashion brands for exploiting the country’s poor labour and safety standards to produce at cheap cost. This paper summarises the findings of a case study on the governance of labour standards in Bangladesh’s garment sector that was undertaken as part of the EU-funded research project “GLOBAL VALUE”[1]. Its aim was to assess the current system of governance, i.e. the multitude of existing institutional arrangements which govern responsible business conduct (here: labour standards) in Bangladesh’s garment sector. In order to evaluate the system’s effectiveness in influencing buyer and supplier practices, its enablers and barriers as well as its shortcomings, qualitative interviews were undertaken with selected stakeholders in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The case study concludes with recommendations for policy makers, businesses and civil society.