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Setting the record straight

Article - August 21, 2013
The reputation of Bangladesh textile factories has been tarnished by world headlines, but one owner says that bad practices are not widespread
Bangladesh’s textile factories hit world headlines for all the wrong reasons in April; the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory near Dhaka killed over 1,100 people and sparked calls for significant improvements in safety and working conditions for the county’s textile factory workers. 
The UK is leading the charge in supporting improvements in standards. The British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) is funding initiatives that bring together buyers, manufacturers, workers, NGOs and the Government of Bangladesh to discuss the setting of common standards for worker safety. 
The Rana Plaza incident and stories of poor working conditions have certainly tainted the global reputation of textile factory owners in Bangladesh, but there are owners and management who are providing safe working conditions and meaningful benefits for their employees and their families.   
“The examples that hit the headlines, unfortunately with some recurring frequency, are instances which are not widespread practices. There are enterprises that are good employers, and are doing the best they can. Unfortunately, you do not hear so much about the good stories as the bad ones. Bad news sells,” explains Sayed Nasim Manzur, Managing Director of APEX Adelchi Footwear. 
ACS Textiles, one of the country’s leading home textiles manufacturers, is a prime example of a company doing its best for its workers. It provides employees with a safe working environment (complying with all safety standards), free medical care, a fair wage and free transportation. It provides employees’ children with free schooling and will continue to pay the wages to a family, in the case of death of an employee. Workers also receive a bonus three times a year. 
Employees of ACS are benefitting because of Managing Director Masood Dawood Akbani’s philosophy on how his business should be run: “We take care of the families; it is a family business. We are not individuals. It is not as if I am the owner of the factory and I should get the most; we should distribute the wealth we earn. You have to build up the ownership inside people, so that they feel that they are ACS.”
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a main concern for the ACS boss. The anti-child labour advocate invests in education for local children. “I am building a school where the children will be given an education and computer training,” he says. “Children should not become workers – this is our motto.” Mr Akbani’s CSR work also covers the environment. ACS employs technology to improve the efficiency of energy usage and to prevent pollution through responsible waste management and water treatment. “We have a water treatment plant, which is checked every day. Every day a report comes out confirming the levels which indicate that the water is good enough for the fish to drink,” he explains.

Apart from the environment, local stakeholders and workers, ACS also makes sure the best practices are in place in order to put both buyers’ and shareholders’ minds at ease. It conducts transparent business operations and maintains stringent quality control practices, including computerised testing. 
“It is just about the quality level,” says the ACS MD. “It is not about price; you can be 5 per cent more expensive, but if you are not able to achieve the quality, you are not there. You have to be the number one at quality level. When we ship to Marks & Spencer, every piece has to be assembled. You need a good level of quality and your factories need to comply."