The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) has urged fashion retailers to reconsider their connections with suppliers in Myanmar, a country which has been under political turmoil since its army’s coup against the government in February 2021.
The situation has brought up concerns of whether the country can meet the international standards of workers’ rights and responsible business guidelines in its current position.
In response, ETI commissioned Due Diligence Design to conduct an independent assessment of the unfolding situation in line with standards set by the United Nations (UN).
Ultimately, the organisation has said that its Base Code standards are currently not being met by Myanmar’s garment sector, impacting businesses’ abilities to carry out normal human rights due diligence.
According to the report, there was “evidence of forced labour and exploitation at a sector level”, with workers also “unable to exercise their right to freedom” in alignment with international labour standards, among other alleged violations.
In its press release, the ETI said: “Military action has placed substantial limitations on civic freedom, preventing civil society and the international organisations upon which responsible business can usually rely, from operating as normal.”
The firm is recommending that companies which are involved in garment manufacturing in the region should “reassess their presence”. It further noted that if they wish to continue following the UN’s principles they must ensure the group’s Base Code is applied in all of their supplier factories.
The initiative added: “Should companies choose to exit Myanmar they must do so responsibly, and in consultation with social partners. The impact of exiting Myanmar on workers and their families, needs to be a clear focus in this consultation.”