People will continue to buy clothes no matter the conditions in the economy particularly with the unprecedented growth of online retail sites like TV Store online.
Most of the garments sold in retail stores are made from other countries where labor is cheaper. However, in Myanmar, there is a code of conduct that sets out responsible and ethical business practices for the garment industry. Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association represents around 300 companies and it aims to provide a benchmark for responsible business practices in the garments sector.
The code of conduct came at a time when Myanmar is opening the country as a manufacturing base. It is taking into account the concerns of factory workers as well as worker’s rights activists about poor working environments and low wages paid by employers. The code of conduct is considered as a first for Myanmar’s apparel exporters.
The current garment industry of Myanmar is growing with 300 companies employing from 150,000 to 250,000 workers. Based on reports, Myanmar garment exports exceeded US$1 billion in 2013-14 and makes up about 10% of the country’s overall exports. The country is preparing for more orders coming from Europe and the United States with a target of US$2 billion by 2016. The implementation of the Code of Conduct will address the concerns of international retailers on the health and safety of workers.
The SME’s for Environmental, Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency were launched for the SMART program in 2014 with European assistance. The aim of the Smart program is to support the sustainable production of garments that are “Made in Myanmar” and to strive for the increase in international competitiveness for the SME sector.
The organization realizes the challenges it will meet in implementing all the necessary changes in the factory level including the policy level that will encourage the industry to grow. SMART Myanmar knows that it will play an important role in the process because it has to ensure that the factory level can be showcased for other industrialists. SMART Myanmar will address the need for policy changes so that the organizations can achieve its goal. SMART Myanmar plans to holds dialogues with both Myanmar Garments Manufacturers Association and the Ministry of Commerce.