Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

BKMEA’s Ethical stance on Knitwear Industrial Chain

CSR can contribute a lot to community development. The corporate house can develop the community by creating employment, providing primary education, contribution to infrastructure development like road and high-ways and addressing environmental concerns. This is more relevant for a country like Bangladesh where the government interventions in these fields augmented by corporate alliance can go a long way in developing the economy, society and environment. Since, CSR entails working with stakeholders, it is important to work from within and diagnose the stakeholders; concerns so that CSR is truly embedded in the companies.  By now, many CSR dimensions are practiced in Bangladesh.

Companies are now facing the challenges of adapting effectively to the changing environment in the context of globalization and in particular in the export sector. In the corporate world of the knitwear industry in Bangladesh, companies have gradually been attaching more importance to CSR in the local markets as well. They are increasingly aware that CSR can be of direct economic value.  Companies can contribute to social and environmental objectives, through integrating CSR as a strategic investment into their core business strategy, management instruments and operations.

BKMEA is advocating CSR practices more poignantly & vociferously than ever before across the factory level for bringing in changes in industrial behaviorism. We keep faith in the system that Industrial development—both monetarily and physically—should entail social commitment that the effect of trickle-down economic theory goes down to the lower strata of the people of the society. The working class people of the knitwear industry have been in our centerpiece of CSR theme and BKMEA, as a labor-friendly organization, tries its best to ensure CSR practices across the industry level. We make them understand that this is an investment, not a cost, much like quality management. So, business organizations can thereby have an inclusive financial, commercial and social approach, leading to a long term strategy minimizing risks linked to uncertainty.

BKMEA has been conducting some CSR programmes that are instrumental for CSR activities to be popular across the factory level.  As a representative organization of the Knitwear sector, we have commitment for the social corporate responsibility to be implanted. We cite few of such programs that have claimed huge acclamation both from home and abroad.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, globalization has set in motion forces that shift power from producers who make goods to customers who buy and use them. In market economies, if any single factor distinguishes the successful company or business it is putting the customer first. Successful companies build lasting relationships with customers by focusing their whole organization on understanding what the customers want and on providing them superior quality, reliability and service. Armand Feigenbaum, one of the pioneers in quality management, says companies which have successful quality programmes have a 10% cost advantage over competitors: “fewer defects mean less rework and wasted management time, lower costs, and higher customer retention”.

BKMEA is working on those issues to be implemented at the factories.  Many BKMEA member factories are seriously performing CSR Commitments for the development and welfare of the society.  They are using business ventures for the social well-being.

BKMEA TB Control Programme

In Bangladesh, TB is still a major public health problem. While TB is most likely to be spread between members of the same family, regular, close contact with colleagues at work also presents a high risk to the spread of TB.TB is a workplace issue because health is essential not only to the well-being of individuals but also the functioning of economies. The garment industry of Bangladesh provides employment to about 3 million workers of whom 90% are women. Factories range in size from hundreds to tens of thousands of workers.

BKMEA TB Control Program started its journey on 01 December 2013 with a plan to remove TB from the RMG sector of Narayanganj area. Its office is situated at BKMEA Healthcare Centre in BSCIC, Fatulla, Narayanganj Under the programme, we have planned to work initially in 200 knit factories in the adjacent area. So far, it has motivated 35000 employees on symptoms and treatment of TB and providing necessary cooperation to TB Control Team. It has already tested sputum of 362 probable TB cases, diagnosed and treated 32 TB patients. Its existing activities are:

ACSM Activities:

  • Orientation session on TB for the Knit workers
  • Sensitization Meeting for the Knit Garments owners
  • Staff Meeting with Local Government Health officials, BRAC and other likeminded Privet Organizations and NGO Partners.
  • Networking and linkage among the stakeholders for the welfare of Knit workers.
  • Observing World TB Day at National and local tire.

Clinical Services:

  • Free Sputum collection and testing by qualified Lab Technician.
  • Consultation facilities by registered Specialized Medical Officer with free of cost.
  • Management of free anti-TB drugs with the help of Local Government Hospitals and BRAC.

Education programme:
An education programme for garment workers was also simultaneously rolled out. This training includes a general discussion of TB that is facilitated by the use of posters, leaflets and videos – so that workers become aware of the dangers of TB, and understand how to prevent it and treat it. Emphasis is placed on removing the stigma of TB and empowering garment workers to seek care.

TB control in Knitwear workplaces under BKMEA provides Strategies, protocols, guides and tools for the workers and stakeholders to be saved from being attacked by TB. We assess the impact of the project using quantitative and qualitative measures: changes in TB outcomes were calculated using standard indicators based on factory and factory records; changes in TB care-seeking behavior were assessed using qualitative in-depth interviews with factory managers and medical personnel, and focus group discussions with factory workers.

The project has brought positive changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices of managers, workers and health care providers on TB care and control. During 20013-2014, a total of 362 workers from a workforce of 250000 were referred for sputum microscopy and 32 were diagnosed with smear-positive TB. However, about 145 workers have received primary care at their workplace. The overall treatment success rate was 100%.

It is feasible to engage factories in TB control activities in Bangladesh, and thereby increase case notifications and improve treatment outcomes. BKMEA will continue engaging factory owners and workers into the programme and make the knitwear sector free of TB diseases.

The Child daycare Centre

Women represent the majority of workers in export processing zones in Bangladesh, and as such, any investment in this group will have far-reaching impacts, from both business and social perspectives. Creating women-friendly working environments has been shown to have measurable, positive effects on an enterprise’s bottom line,including: 
-Reduced absenteeism and turnover, increased productivity, and enhanced worker loyalty;
-Legal compliance and risk mitigation; and
-Improved worker satisfaction and worker-management communication

BKMEA believes in women participation in the industrial belt and has a long-term policy to help working mothers to have tension-free working time at the factories. BKMEA Child daycare Centre was established with Metro group, Germany from that commitment.  It came into function on 01 August 2010 at BSCIC, Fatulla, Narayanganj. Its childcare capacity is 60 at the moment and BKMEA has a plan to enhance it upto 100 soon. Since inception, the center took care of total 2225 children of the poor knitwear workers.

Nutrition + Education+ Edutainment+ Introduction to Technology + Playing and games = BKMEA Child care center.

Its existing activities are as under:

  • Exclusive child care from 06 months to 06 years for the babies of Garment workers.
  • Non-stop child care services by seven (07) skilled Care Givers from 7.30 am to 5.00 pm except Govt. Holidays.
  • providing balanced food four times daily with free of cost.
  • A skilled teacher for Pre-schooling.
  • Availability of Quality Health Care Services with free medicine by a Registered Qualified Medical Officer and a Nurse.
  • keeping well decorated and cheerful environment for the babies with Television, toys and other learning devices.
  • Ensuring uncompromised safety and security.
Garments Workers children at the Baby Day Care Center

Over the next years, BKMEA aims to provide women workers with fortified foods and many of their under-five children with micronutrient supplements. The project will offer guidance to factory management to support breastfeeding and to upgrade and improve day-care centers and the women will be trained by experienced health workers on appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, as well as sexual and reproductive health. Malnutrition is one of the greatest global health challenges and Bangladesh has some of the highest rates in the world. There is an urgent need to address the intergenerational cycle that prevents mothers and their children in Bangladesh from enjoying a healthy life.

BKMEA is highly motivated to address the problems of the working mothers of the knitwear industry with practical solutions. WE are also advocating to establish more day care centers on the factory premises.

BKMEA Healthcare Centre

Most of the knitwear workers, particularly female workers, in Bangladesh tend to have very little education as they drop out of school early to help support their families, and some are illiterate. So they have lake of awareness about health & safety issue. They are more malnourished than men at every stage of life, but this phenomenon is more visible in the case of adolescent girls & pregnant mother.  But the safety & health condition record of Bangladeshi factories is unacceptable and requires our collective effort.  We can prevent future tragedies & improve health condition of workers by consolidating and amplifying our individual efforts to bring about real and sustained progress.

Realizing the situation we have taken an initiative to give health service to the every worker, who does not have money to afford treatment. This will be a service-oriented business program to take health care for worker, who works in the Apparel industries. Our motive is to reach up health service to the door to door working people. The program is to give health service as well as entrepreneur initiative.

The BKMEA Healthcare Centre started functioning on 23 November 2009 at BSCIC, Fatulla, Narayanganj to treat the poor RMG workers of the knitwear sector. In average it receives 25 patients per day and it has treated more than 30, 000 patients till date. Its existing activities are a follows:        

  • Free Consultancy Service by a qualified registered Physician and a skilled Paramedic (Nurse) from 10 am to 5 pm except Govt. Holidays.
  • Free medicine service.
  • Minor surgeries like needle removal, management of burn and wound patients.
  • Follow up services.

Under the labor laws of Bangladesh and the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO), factories must provide healthcare to their workers. Most factories in Bangladesh are now appointing medical doctors or nurses to care for their workers. Not only that, they are also linked with healthcare program of the government or non-government organizations. In this place, BKMEA’s Healthcare Centre has been unique in character and is providing laudable services to the workers, who are very poor and dearth of monetary support to get treatment. 

Some other Notable CSR Performances of BKMEA

1 BKMEA had donated taka one crore (TK. 1,00,00,000/=)for the treatment and welfare of  the victims of Rana plaza to BGMEA.
2 BKMEA has compensated the 8 workers that died from fire-burnt injuries of smart fashion, which is not a BKMEA member unit. Yet, BKMEA doled out taka one lac to each fire-burnt worker’s family.
3 BKMEA is the only organization of Bangladesh that gives out two lac compensation for each normal death of the workers at the factory premises.
4 BKMEA is the first organization of Bangladesh that introduced the compulsory group insurance scheme for the knitwear workers.
5 BKMEA trains the unskilled girls and boys to be technically sound to be enrolled at factory free of cost.
6 BKMEA is going to establish a 100-bed Hospital for the knitwear workers in Narayanganj with the Ministry labor and employment soon.
7 BKMEA operated ration shops for the knitwear workers in 2008 when prices hiked superficially.
8 BKMEA donated blankets, saris, clothes, knitwear items, rice, lentils, onions and other daily necessities to the flood and cyclone-victimized people in 2008.
9 BKMEA has played vocal role in increasing worker’s minimum salary range despite being an owner-dominated organization.
10 BKMEA observes MAY DAY yearly and contributes financially to Ministry of Labor and Employment for observation of MAY DAY.
11 BKMEA organized Workers’ festival day in 2008 and 2009 and from then onward, had asked the member factories to observe Workers’ festival day annually.
12 BKMEA is committed to providing employments to the members of the deceased workers and is helping them accordingly since 2010.
13 BKMEA is the only organization in Bangladesh that sits regularly with labor organizations of Bangladesh and solves problems (if any) amicably. In 2012, BKMEA sat with more than 400 labor leaders of Bangladesh- who represent all the labor organizations in Bangladesh— and came into commitment to work together for a happy industrial sector. It is satisfying to state that no big scale of factory demolition or workers agitation has ever taken place at the knitwear sector so far.
14 BKMEA has donated 9 patrolling cars to Bangladesh police and Industrial police so far for their smooth operation and patrolling.
15 BKMEA is all set to establish a Workers’ Dormitory in the proposed “KNIT VILLAGE” under the auspices of the Government and BKMEA at Santirchar in Narayanganj.

CSR has been defined in general terms as ‘the obligation of the firm to use its resources in ways to benefit society, through committed participation as a member of society, taking into account the society at large and improving the welfare of society at large independent of direct gains of the company’ (Weile et al., 2001: 288). As mentioned earlier, there are many evidences of corporate philanthropy in Bangladesh, which is different in character from fully developed CSR practice by a company, however small, medium or large in size – local or multination. 

Some commentators have pointed out that only multi-national companies and a few of the leading national companies in Bangladesh have the resources to implement CSR. Some others argue that CSR is primarily a political and strategic agenda pushed by policy makers, NGOs and big business. Furthermore, it is argued that only export-oriented companies whose customers are in Europe or North America need CSR to comply with the ‘Overseas’ CSR requirements of their buyers.

“As we enter the next century, industry will be the most important engine for change in the drive for sustainable solutions to the world’s environmental problems.” So said Maurice Strong, Chairman of the Earth Council. The major voice for business at Rio, now the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), in its Declaration and in its lengthy report, Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment, accepted that “business will play a vital role in the future health of this planet . . .(that) economic growth and environmental protection are inextricably linked . . . (and that) new forms of cooperation between government, business, and society are required.”

SoBKMEA is rightfully committed to making the knitwear sector of Bangladesh a vibrant force of CSR programmes!