If you are a garment manufacturer, there is perhaps nothing as important as compliance audits! To get an order from the buyers, a company must have to pass the compliance audit, failing which — no matter the reputation, track record and size — buyers would never place an order with a factory.
Over the years, the compliance audits have emerged as a major concern for the apparel makers, especially the small and medium-sized ones, and why would it not. If on one hand one has the established compliance bodies representing a group of retailers/buyers from a certain geographical region, on the other you have audits by individual buyers as well. And as a manufacturer one would have to conform to each one’s compliance standards to be in the business.
“Essentially, there are three different groups independently monitoring building and fire safety in Bangladeshi factories currently. Moreover, some retailers are conducting their own separate supplier audits. This could give rise to a complex operational environment where supplier factories, already reeling under the pressure of high production targets, have to face numerous, continuous, and often overlapping inspections from different groups,” maintained an industry insider speaking to Apparel Resources.
The bone of contention, however, seems not to be the audits in themselves rather it is the criteria put forth by each auditing body (which could be as diverse as possible) that complicates the issue. Add to it the cost implications in meeting the compliance standards of different entities. And, if one happens to work for a diverse range of buyers, which more often than not is the case in Bangladesh garment industry, the issue of measuring up to such a wide range of compliance prerequisites becomes even more challenging.
This long-standing problem of the garment manufacturers could now change for good it seems after global platform for apparel makers, the International Apparel Federation (IFA), took note of the same and proposed to come up with a unified system in compliance audit to ease the pressure on garment makers.
“In the apparel industry, we have so many audits, which cost lots of money. We agreed in our board to hold a meeting probably in Europe next year with buyers, retailers and apparel manufacturers…In general, I feel there are too many initiatives trying to improve our (apparel) business. We are working on combining these initiatives under one unified system,” confirms President of IAF Han Bekke, adding, “We can save lots of money if a harmonised system is evolved.”
To take things forward, IAF has already held discussions with the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) to facilitate the same.
And as it would have been, the IAF proposal towards standardising the compliance audits has evoked positive response from the industry already! “A unified code of conduct for compliance audits is a longstanding demand of apparel makers. If it is done in the apparel sector, it would ensure compliance at a reasonable cost and within a short time,” underlined President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Md. Siddiqur Rahman, who went on to maintain that as a trade body of the apparel sector, the BGMEA will work with the IAF and ITMF on this issue.
Hoping for an early breakthrough in this regard, which we feel would not only be in the best interest of the manufacturers but the buyers as well.