DHAKA, Bangladesh, 25 January 2024 – In a step towards advancing business and labour practices in Bangladesh, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) organized a two-day consultation event, “Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) along Value Chain and Purchasing Practices”.
The insightful discussions on Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) during the event emphasized the commitment to fostering decent work practices beyond the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) sector, including Plastic, Tea, Agriculture, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Leather & Footwear. Participants recognized the interconnectedness of global markets and the need for strategic approaches to address challenges to decent work, ensuring better uptake of RBC international frameworks by the different sectors.
With the financial support of the Government of Japan, the event organized on January 24 and 25, 2024, attracted over 100 participants from various sectors, including government, trade unions, employers’ organizations, enterprises, development partners, and civil society organizations.
The consultation aimed to facilitate dialogue among ministries and governmental agencies, social partners and enterprises for assessing what is needed to put the right ecosystem in place to promote responsible business conduct in and beyond the apparel sector in Bangladesh.
As the world increasingly acknowledges the importance of responsible business practices and human rights due diligence in supply chains, the event provided further orientation to participants on business practices that translate decent work into action and addressed the roles and responsibilities of the different actors.
“Responsible business conduct is key to sustainable and inclusive growth. This event is crucial to promoting responsible business conduct in business operations in Bangladesh, within and beyond the apparel sector, aligning with international instruments, such as the ILO MNE Declaration and United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as well as global best practices,” said Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO Country Director for Bangladesh.
“There is a need for a collective commitment from various stakeholders to facilitate a dialogue, fostering a general understanding of and promoting responsible business conduct across industries and supply chains. The other sectors can also learn from the Better Work Bangladesh experiences in RMG in the last 10 years,” he added.
Avijit Chowdhury, Additional Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh and Executive Member of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), said, “We need to focus on economic diplomacy that highlights enhancing working conditions and elevating work standards. Adopting a holistic approach with a positive mindset to Responsible Business Conduct is key. Bangladesh is reviewing its investment policy to integrate decent work issues and promote sustainable investments through addressing technology use, skill development, and ensuring compliance.”
Haruta Hiroki, First Secretary, Head of Economic Department, Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh, said, “We place significant importance on business and human rights, upholding a commitment to responsible business conduct. Our focus on ethical and socially responsible business practices
remained unwavering. We genuinely care about human rights issues, and our journey reflects a sincere commitment to fostering positive impact.”
In the two-day discussions, participants explored how the ILO MNE Declaration could help promote the contribution of enterprises (national and multinational) to development and inclusive growth in Bangladesh. They also reflected on potential entry points for enhancing responsible business conduct for the realization of decent work in a coordinated and coherent manner across governmental actions, highlighting the role of employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as enterprises.
Wasim Zachariah, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on SDG Affairs, BGMEA, reflected, “In a global landscape shaped by geopolitical challenges and economic shifts, the importance of Responsible Business Conduct becomes even more evident. The ongoing conflicts, such as the one between Ukraine and Russia, coupled with the energy crisis and economic downturn in Europe, highlight the interconnectedness of markets. As we navigate these complexities, it’s crucial for businesses to integrate RBC into their supply chains.”
Babul Akhtar, Senior Vice President, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), said, “We must prioritize creating safe working environments in collaboration with workers to align with international standards and RBC. It requires action and genuine commitment that ensures that workers are not only part of the dialogue but are integral to impactful decisions within the Responsible Business Conduct approach.”
The consultation resulted in shaping a possible roadmap for the promotion of responsible business conduct for decent work in Bangladesh. This roadmap outlines priority actions for fostering sustainable, responsible, and inclusive business practices across different economic sectors and recommends the creation of a national working group on Responsible Business Conduct to provide overarching guidance in this area. The event highlighted the critical importance of coordination and coherence among the different actors to foster collaborative efforts to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth.
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Note to the Editor:
The Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) (www.ilo.org/mnedeclaration) is the ILO reference framework on responsible business conduct (RBC). Its principles are addressed to multinational and national enterprises, governments of home and host countries, and employers’ and workers’ organizations, providing guidance in such areas as employment, training, conditions of work and life, industrial relations as well as general policies. The guidance is founded substantially on principles contained in international labour standards. The ILO Helpdesk for Business (www.ilo.org/business) is the one-stop shop for company managers and workers on how to better align business operations with international labour standards and enhance respect for workers’ human rights as part of due diligence processes.