BESTSELLER’S ENGAGEMENT IN MYANMAR
(update 19 March: BESTSELLER pauses placement of new orders in Myanmar. Read more here)
In BESTSELLER we are deeply concerned for Myanmar’s democratic process, our suppliers and for the livelihood of their employees.
On 1 February 2021 the military in Myanmar seized control of the country following a general election which the National League for Democracy party won by a landslide. Following the coup, the military declared a one year “state of emergency”. The present situation is volatile and evolving by the hour.
BESTSELLER’s presence in Myanmar
BESTSELLER has been active in Myanmar since 2014. The International Labour Organisation estimates that in 2019 garment manufacturing in Myanmar employed approximately 700.000 employees (86% women). A substantial part of these previously worked in the informal sector in jobs characterised by low wages, poor working conditions as well as low job security and social protection.
BESTSELLER collaborates with 36 garment factories in Myanmar through which we contribute to the livelihood of close to 48.000 employees and their families. Find the names of our Myanmar suppliers in our open factory list here. As part of our commitment to ethical trade we engage with suppliers, trade unions, international brands and key local stakeholders to promote freedom of association and help build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions in the country. During BESTSELLER’s engagement in the country, we have witnessed a positive development and we are concerned for the disrupted democratic process.
We are monitoring the developments in Myanmar closely and we maintain close contact with suppliers and other stakeholders in the country. At this given point in time, we will refrain from speculating about what this will mean for us going forward, as we await a coordinated response from the international community on how to proceed, in a way that secures the health, safety and livelihood for our business partners and their employees.
In BESTSELLER’s ‘Sourcing Regions of particular human rights focus’ policy, it is stated that: “BESTSELLER wishes to contribute to the ongoing positive developments related to social, labour, freedom of association, and environmental standards in the fashion and textile industry in Myanmar, while avoiding financially contributing to the military. Consequently, BESTSELLER has imposed a ban on suppliers, factories and suppliers of materials owned by or affiliated with the military of Myanmar. During 2020, BESTSELLER has increased our in-country due diligence to make sure that we are delivering on this policy. This includes investigations made by a well renowned international law firm with local presence in Yangon. The few suppliers operating in industrial zones with risk of military association, and all new suppliers which we onboard, have been subjected to this investigation. The conclusion from the law firm is clear, that there is no evidence – and no indication – of any military ownership of our suppliers or the land they lease.
Engagement to develop sustainable environmental social and labour standards
To support positive change, we work at factory level in partnerships such as the SMART TAG program, at industry level through our membership in ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) and at national level through the European Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar. Through our active engagement in ACT, we work closely with our business partners and trade unions in Myanmar to promote freedom of association in line with the International Labour Standards and the Myanmar Guideline on Freedom of Association. The current crises threaten both the promising results already achieved and the efforts planned for the future.