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This conference will look at identifying and solving the challenges in the transformation of the Bangladesh Garment Industry, analyzing the tools and metrics to measure progress and recommending the best practices for sustainable development.

Friday, June 5 – Saturday, June 6, CGIS South, S010, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Register here.


Friday, June 5, 2016


1:00 PM to 2:15 PM
Charting the Path to 2018 – the Future of the RMG Sector in Bangladesh

In this session the development partners will evaluate if the efforts undertaken so far are sustainable. They will discuss if the government of Bangladesh be in a position to take over these activities in 2018 when the private sector initiatives are scheduled to come to an end. The actions of government of Bangladesh to fulfill its reform obligations under the GSP Action Plan and the Sustainability Compact will be discussed in details. Government officials from Bangladesh, US, Europe, Factory owners and Brand Retailers group will take part in this session.


Iqbal Yousuf – International Sustainable Development Institute
Mikail Shipar – Secretary of Bangladesh Ministry of Labor and Employment
Md. Shahidullah Azim – Vice President, BGMEA
Rob Wayss – Executive Director of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh
Susanne Hoffman – Director General of Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs – German Federal Government
Mara Burr – Albright Stonebridge Group
Michael O’Donnovan – ILAB – US Department of Labor


2:15 PM to 3:30 PM
Compliant and Responsible Supply Chain – Product and Worker Safety

Safe and compliant supply chains help facilitate sustainable growth for businesses. The panelists will discuss the need for increased visibility and transparency in the supply chain with the aim of improving workers’ safety and work place benefits. In this session panelists will discuss in details the major compliance issues brands experience and the best practical solutions available. The experts will discuss the global standards on workplace safety in conjunction with effective inspections to enforce these standards, which in turn can help ensure a solid foundation for safety rules.


Dr. Michael Toffel (Keynote) – Harvard Business School
Dr. Nien-he Hsieh – Harvard Business School
Jessica Slattery – International Labor Affairs, US Department of State
Nate Herman – Vice President – International Trade – AAFA
Avedis Seferian – President WRAP
Edward Hertzman – Sourcing Journal
Rana Alok Singh – CSR and Social Development Representative – Ethical Trading Initiative


3:30 PM to 4:45 PM
Shared Responsibility for a Sustainable RMG Sector in Bangladesh

In December 2014, the Government of Bangladesh and the BGMEA boldly announced a vision for exports of $50 billion by 2021. They acknowledge that achieving this target will require a diversity of stakeholders to confront challenges around safety, workers’ rights, and innovation to move up the value chain. In recent months, stakeholders have begun to acknowledge the additional challenge presented by a large number of smaller factories that fall outside of current initiatives to upgrade the sector. This panel will examine the limits of existing initiatives and explore potential ways forward to achieve the standards for safety in all factories producing for the export market.


Sarah Labowitz – NYU Stern School of Business
Rick Darling – Executive Director, Li & Fung (Trading) Ltd.
Tuomo Poutiainen – Program Manager of Ready Made Garment Sector, ILO Bangladesh
Faruque Hassan – Ex Vice President of BGMEA


4:45 PM to 6:00 PM
Globalization, Gender, and Labor Standards at Bangladesh RMG Sector

Workers at Bangladesh RMG industry, most of whom are women, form the lowest segment of the globalized commodity chain of the garment industry. Consumers groups, buyers, and factory owners should focus on best practices in various parts of the world and make draft policy guidelines on the mutual responsibilities of buyers and factory owners and on the role of the state and international organizations. This panel will focus on how buyers, factory owners, factory managers, shop floor supervisors, trade unions, worker participation committees, and the government impact female workers’ problems and their solutions. There will be an emphasis on policy recommendations, which impact the gendered nature of the nexus of globalization, labor, and the garment industry.


Meher Afroze Chumki, MP – Bangladesh State Minister of Women’s and Children’s Affairs
Dr. Fauzia Ahmed – University of Miami at Ohio
Jean Lambert – Member of European Parliament -Chair of the Delegation for South Asia
Nazma Akter – Labor Leader – President SGSF
Dr. Sanchita Saxena – University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Shahidur Rahman – BRAC University
Vidiya Amrit Khan – Director BGMEA

Saturday Sessions – June 6, 2015


9:00 AM to 10:15 AM
Realities of Today’s Retail Environment and its Effects on the Sourcing and Buying Decisions

Despite companies’ efforts to improve compliance and social responsibility and requests of their suppliers to follow suit, the harsh reality is that buyers will continue to be pressured on price despite the added costs of compliance, and until consumers agree to pay more, little is likely to change. As long as we live in a promotional environment, one where companies are facing constant margin pressure, will consumers or the brands have to reconsider what they’re willing to pay for? Or, must brands accept some responsibility for noncompliance because of the relentless price pressure they place on contractors as historical prices offer some insight.


Edward Hertzman – Sourcing Journal
Erik Autor – Retail Council of Canada
Jean Shein – Uniqlo
Showkat Aziz Russell – Vice President BTMA
Dr. Robert Ross – Clark University
Avedis Seferian – President WRAP

10:15 AM to 11:15 AM
Workplace Cooperation Strategies for Bangladesh RMG Sector

The discussion will focus on how current labor relations in Bangladesh is causing workers dissatisfaction and untoward incidents that may ultimately lead to reputation crises of the industry both at home and abroad. This may cause inconvenience to the buying community. The discussion in this session will focus on developing pragmatic approach on ‘how factories can limit or eliminate workplace unrest through negotiations. The panelists will discuss how companies and brands can do this in Bangladesh on their own, by developing in-house private programs without government intervention or control.


Arnold Zack – Arbitrator and Mediator – Harvard Law School
Dr. Thomas Kochan – Professor of Management – MIT – Sloan School of Management
Paula Albertson – Labor Attaché – US Embassy in Dhaka – Bangladesh
Steven Greenhouse – Reporter on Labor Relations
Nazma Akter – Labor Leader – President SGSF, Bangladesh
Mara Burr – Albright Stonebridge Group


11:15 AM to 12:30 PM
Best practices in Industrial Relations for Sustainable Growth

Labor relations and working conditions are two major challenges that the Bangladesh garment industry is addressing after the tragedies. While considerable progress has been made in the last two years, there is still much work that needs to be done, particularly in view of the international scrutiny and heightened awareness of the importance of good labor practices and the necessity of management-labor -government triangulation to reach the target growth rates. Recent international trade agreements and the focus on “state-of the art” best practices, have put wages, collective bargaining, and safety issues at the forefront, and Bangladesh can jump ahead of the competition by becoming a role model in the labor relations domain.


Dr. David Weil (Keynote) – U.S. Department of Labor|
Steven Greenhouse – Reporter on Labor Relations
Mikail Shipar – Secretary of Bangladesh Ministry of Labor and Employment
Nazma Akter – Labor Leader – President SGSF, Bangladesh
Scott Nova – Witness Signatory Accord Bangladesh – Worker Rights Consortium
Toumo Poutiainen – Program Manager of Ready Made Garment Sector at ILO Bangladesh
Reaz Mahmoud – Vice President BGMEA


1:30 PM to 2:45 PM
Developing a Sustainable Occupational Health and Safety Structure in garment factories

This session will focus on the importance of the development and standardization of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) structure in Bangladesh garment industry. The panelists will discuss the current state of safety and health conditions in the factories and their effects on working conditions. They will also identify the current deficits, logistical support needed, and strengthening mechanism of occupational health and safety. A panel of invited experts will be
covering the need for the formation of factory-level Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) committees and the necessity of ensuring their effectiveness through accountability, sustainability, engagement, and representation of both worker representatives and management.


Dr. Abu Abdullah – Duke University
Rob Wayss – Executive Director of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh
Rashed Yousuf – Premier University and Sanmar Properties
Jette Knudsen – Professor Tufts University
Reaz Mahmoud – Vice President BGMEA
Raymod Bizal – Southwest Regional Director, NFPA


2:45 PM to 4:00 PM
The Bangladesh RMG industry in comparative perspective

In this session the academics and industry experts will analyze putting Bangladesh in comparative and historical perspective parallels between the history of collective bargaining and the regulation of labor conditions in domestic subcontracting networks in the U.S. and other international apparel industries, and the situation today in global supply chains. The panelists with diverse perspectives will concentrate on a comparative analysis of Bangladesh with other garment exporting countries in the global supply chains that can help to accomplish the goals set for a sustained growth of the RMG industry in Bangladesh.


Dr. Jennifer Bair – University of Colorado
Dr. Mark Anner – Penn State University
Rick Darling – Executive Director – Li & Fung (Trading) Ltd.
Julia Hughes – President USFIA
Dr. Sanchita Saxena – University of California, Berkeley
Rico Zampetti – European Union Representative at the UN


4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Business Turnaround Strategy for Distressed Garment Factories

In the face of fierce global competition of fashion clothing, the factories of Bangladesh garment Industry have been facing a series of new challenges from rapidly changing market conditions and consumer preferences. In the middle of these growing challenges, many garment factories in Bangladesh have experienced various levels of distress to survive in this competitive environment. Since most of these distressed factory units do not have their competitive advantages, the business turnaround strategy seems to be the only viable approach for survival. In this context, the conversation in this session will cover identifying the key problem areas causing the business distresses for Bangladesh RMG sector. Some of these problem areas are related to infrastructural problems, lack of funding, ineffective marketing, competitive disadvantage, cost effectiveness issues, lack of expertise to communicate with global clients, the use of new technology, and so on.
Moderator: Dr. Nurul Aman – UMass Boston


Dr. Nurul Aman – University of Massachusetts – Boston
Meher Afroze Chumki, MP – Bangladesh State Minister of Women’s and Children’s Affairs
Moushumi Khan – Attorney and International Business Consultant
John Smith – Adviser & International Co-ordinator Textiles and Garments – UNIDO
Dr. Syed Abu Hasnath – Independent Scholar
Dr. Abdullah Shibli – Framingham State University
Faruque Hassan – Ex Vice President of BGMEA


5:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Financing for the Transformation of the Bangladesh Garment Industry

Obtaining sufficient capital at reasonable cost and risk is one of the acute challenges of the Bangladesh garment industry. It is hindering the expansion of factory capacity to meet demand and the ability of the garment industry owners to upgrade their facilities to meet the safety requirements and become compliant. In this session, the panelists will discuss what steps could be undertaken to alleviate these problems, such as providing explicit loan guarantees, establishing venture capital and angel investment funds, introducing risk sharing mechanisms, and facilitating easy accesses to global capital markets for Bangladeshi entrepreneurs. The discussion will emphasize the role of strong banking systems and functioning stock markets, the government policy, importance of public and private investment in fostering the growth and compliance.

Dr. Abu Tariq Jalal  – Suffolk University
Anis Khan – Managing Director and CEO Mutual Trust Bank
Farzana Chowdhury – Managing Director and CEO – Green Delta Insurance
Shahidullah Azim – Vice President BGMEA
Showkat Aziz Russell – Vice President BTMA

6:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Closing Session: Outcomes of the Conference –Path to a Sustainable RMG Sector in Bangladesh