This week we continue our conversation with Nurul Muktadir Bappy. Bappy is from Bangladesh and has been working in the garment industry since 2011. Though he now works as Head of Operations for a sourcing office, he spent much of his career to date working for a manufacturer.
We turn to a question that, in many ways, is a subtle undercurrent running through many of our episodes: if life as a factory owner is so difficult, why do they remain in the business? Why not quit? And why, when and if a factory manager does decide to quit, do we usually hear about them shutting down in the middle of the night, totally abandoning their workers? This leads me to share my own experience shutting down a garment factory, and the challenges of trying to do this in a corrupt legal context.
But not all hope is lost! There are certainly some factories out there who are thriving. Bappy shares his thoughts on what’s different for these factories. The key ingredients we end up teasing out of those examples has to do with shared risk, and how critical this is to changing the incentive structures that govern supply chain relationships, and for nudging us towards partnership.
Want to digger deeper?
The question of how and whether garment factory owners exit the business is especially timely given the number of factory closures in the wake of Covid-19. According to this report by Business & Human Rights Resource Center on Cambodia, over 256 factories have suspended operations, affected more than 130,000 workers.
When factories do close (whether permanently or temporarily), female employees are disproportionately impacted. Check out the ILO’s recent report.
Photo by Suyab Ahmed