Improving conditions in Bangladesh

 

Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest textile producer. There have been challenges associated with the rapid development of the garment industry in Bangladesh, including tragic factory fires and accidents, low wages, limits to workers’ freedom of association and long working hours. 

The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety was set up following the Rana Plaza disaster on 14 May 2013, which killed over 1,120 workers and injured many more. The facility collapsed due to serious structural issues, highlighting the dangerous conditions many workers are subject to in Bangladesh.

As a responsible retailer, Aldi signed the Accord in May 2013 alongside other retailers, NGOs, and various local and international associations and unions. As a member of the original Accord implementation team, the ALDI SOUTH Group actively contributed towards the creation of the Accord and was one of the first signatories of the original Bangladesh Accord in 2013, as well as the follow-on agreement in 2018. Through this agreement, we support measures to improve health and safety within garment factories in Bangladesh.

As a signatory of the Accord, we’re working to improve the safety of factory workers across our  Bangladesh  textile factory base. As part of the Accord, independent experts conduct electrical, fire and structural safety inspections at all factories that make products for Aldi and define which measures are necessary to support a safe workplace. Aldi has employed engineers in our Bangladesh Corporate Responsibility office to assist our suppliers and factories with remediation efforts. 

All signatories of the Accord are requesting the full support of the government and the businesses within Bangladesh in the unrestricted implementation of the Accord, to improve the safety of factory workers across the entire industry and achieve immediate, specific and, above all, permanent improvements for the people of Bangladesh. 

As a large international business, Aldi views itself and its suppliers as being responsible for working conditions throughout the supply chain. We are committed to ensuring we meet our responsibilities for achieving these improvements.

 

Introduction of Bangladesh Minimum Requirements (BMR)

In addition to the requirements of the Accord, we ask suppliers sourcing from Bangladesh to adhere to a specific set of requirements. These more stringent standards mitigate the specific risks of sourcing from Bangladesh, such as fire, electrical and building safety in factories.

In order to verify whether a supplier is capable of complying with our Aldi Social Standards in Production, our Bangladesh Minimum Requirements and the Accord requirements, each supplier must undergo an extensive evaluation and prior to producing Aldi products, led by our International Corporate Responsibility department. Following initial approval of the supplier, our local Corporate Responsibility department along with our supplier representatives, routinely visit factories to monitor compliance with our requirements and to support continuous improvement. Suppliers must also have qualified local representatives in Bangladesh to regularly monitor social performance.

Suppliers are required to closely monitor social compliance and meet other requirements including comprehensive fire protection systems, a valid building permit, and compliance with building regulations.

 

Aldi Factory Advancement Project 

Over the last few years, we have learnt that third party audits are an important tool for identifying problems and promoting improvements in social compliance. However, they are also limited and represent only a snapshot of the conditions at the time of the visit. Sustainable improvement requires trust and cooperation between suppliers, production facility management and workers.

The Aldi Factory Advancement Project is a capacity building programme we introduced to improve the working conditions in the textile and garment industry in Bangladesh. We work with selected production facilities to help them identify their main challenges on working conditions, as well as identifying and implementing solutions. The project enables managers and workers to engage in constructive dialogue to identify potential problems in their working lives and develop solutions together. The core principle is the joint involvement of workers and managers in the dialogue and decision-making processes in factories. Workers and managers learn skills and are given tools to help improve communication within factories and build capacity. It includes training in areas such as health and safety in the workplace, fire safety, working hours, discrimination and harassment as well as productivity and quality management related issues.The project also includes interviews with production facility employees where they can raise any issues in confidence.

Launched in 2013, the project now covers almost half of our garment production facilities in Bangladesh and more than 80,000 employees have experienced positive changes in their day-to-day working environment as a result of their engagement with the project. The project was extended in February 2018 with the launch of AFA Project PLUS, which aims to tackle the shortage and the quality of adequate childcare for working parents and their children in garment factories. Working in collaboration with NGOs and other third-party organisations, Aldi supports production facilities in improving their existing childcare facilities and the quality of care provided.

 

TESTIMONIAL – Aldi Factory Advancement Project 

“I am so happy to have been part of the AFA Project for the past three years. Through the trainings of the AFA Project, I was able to share ideas and problems directly with the management. We have advanced our factory in many different areas by workers and managers jointly discussing problems, deciding on solutions and implementing them. Now we have reduced discrimination and I was promoted from sewing operator to supervisor as one of the first females in my factory. In the future, I want to become a line chief.” Ambia, a sewing operator from a factory that participates in the AFA Project.