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In-Depth Discussion Gathers Stakeholders on Bangladeshi Manufacturing

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Meeting at Stern encouraged a frank discussion of the challenges and opportunities in Bangladesh. - Sarah Labowitz

Center for Business and Human Rights' first convening examines supply chain from Bangladesh to Western consumers

The NYU Stern Center on Business and Human Rights brought together senior government officials from Bangladesh, local manufacturers, senior officials from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Export Association (BGMEA), and representatives of Bangladesh civil society and workers’ organizations to discuss workplace safety and the future of the garment industry in Bangladesh. Participants were joined by major U.S. and European retailers, several Western governments, key intergovernmental organizations, and outside experts. NYU Stern Dean Peter Henry, Chair of Stern’s Board of Overseers William R. Berkley and NYU Stern Professor Michael Posner opened the meeting. Lew Kaden, former Vice Chairman of Citigroup, moderated the discussion. This was the Center’s first major convening since its launch in March 2013. The meeting was organized by Sarah Labowitz who travelled on the Center’s behalf to Bangladesh in July.

The meeting focused on four broad topics related to workplace safety in Bangladesh: the economics of the sourcing relationship between buyers, suppliers, and subcontractors; the role of Western governments and intergovernmental organizations in enhancing workplace safety and worker empowerment; the regulatory landscape for the garment sector; and three recent efforts by the government, international brands, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to fill governance gaps. Representatives of each of these three initiatives – the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and the National Tripartite Plan of Action – were at the table.

“Meeting at Stern encouraged a frank discussion of the challenges and opportunities in Bangladesh. It underscored the need for greater coordination among the various national and international actors, for greater transparency and for a longer term look at the sustainability of the current sourcing model,” Labowitz said.

Based in part on comments and suggestions made at this meeting, NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights will produce a report on workplace safety in the context of building a sustainable garment sector in Bangladesh that continues to contribute to the country’s economic growth and protects the rights of workers who are at the heart of the industry. The report will be released in the coming months. The Center will convene a follow-up meeting in Dhaka early in 2014.

About the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights
The NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights is focused on what companies are doing and should be doing to ensure respect for human rights in their core business operations. The Center is working to prepare future business leaders with the tools they will need to address complex human rights challenges that directly affect their own operations. To advance this mission, the Center is pursuing three primary activities: 1) teaching and research, 2) providing a safe, solutions-oriented convening space for companies and other stakeholders and 3) public education and advocacy.

About New York University Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York University Stern School of Business is one of the world’s premier research and teaching institutions. NYU Stern offers a broad portfolio of graduate and undergraduate programs, all of them informed and enriched by the dynamism, energy, and resources of the world’s business capital. Visit www.stern.nyu.edu and follow us on Twitter @NYUStern.