SME Financial Competency Training program conducted at UMFCCI

Through implementing partner ADFIAP – the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and Pacific, SMART Myanmar conducted a 2-day SME Financial Competency Training attended by sixty one (61) members of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) and Myanmar Industries Association at the UMFCCI Mingalar Hall in Yangon, Myanmar on May 11-12, 2017.

This training program completes the holistic approach to help SMEs access finance, particularly those in the garment sector which are the target beneficiaries of SMART Myanmar 2.0. In 2016, ADFIAP conducted three (3) Green Finance Training Programs to members of the Myanmar Bankers Association, culminating in the certification of the participants who completed the 3 courses as “Green Bankers”. The training interventions were aimed at building the capacities of the loan officers so they can confidently lend to green projects under a risk-mitigated environment.

The recently concluded SME Financial Competency Training Program provided SME Managers with key advice on how to understand their financial needs; how to choose and secure the right source of funding; what banks look into in financing SME projects; how to prepare a business plan; how to comply with bank requirements; and how to be a responsible borrower. Having capacitated both the banks and the SMEs, SMART Myanmar envisions to fulfill its aspiration of paving the way for targeted SMEs to have access to finance from banks to fund green investments, especially related with energy and water efficiency.

Cross-Cultural Management – workshop for Chinese/Mandarin speaking factory managers

While working with over a hundred garment factories in Myanmar on different social and environmental topics, SMART Myanmar’s technical team has noticed and received more and more questions from foreign-invested factories on how to improve cross-cultural communications within their workplace. Understanding and effectively managing hundreds and even thousands of persons from a different cultural and linguistic background is a particular challenge for many factories.

In order to address this need and facilitate better workplace cooperation and dialogue, SMART Myanmar developed a Cross-Cultural Communications seminar. This was first organized in Nov. 2016 and was held again on May 31st, 2017. The seminar aims to discuss the challenges in garment factories on cross-cultural communications, introduce details and nuances about Myanmar culture and share good practices on how to integrate sensitivity and respect for local culture into factory management systems. So far, 82 participants from 45 companies have attended the seminars and given very positive feedback.

Due to overwhelming demand, SMART Myanmar will continue to conduct this seminar in different languages to support garment factories to improve workplace communications, labor relations and to promote better harmony and understanding in the industry. Another seminar will be held in Chinese/Mandarin language on July 14th, conducted by SMART’s multi-lingual Chinese and Myanmar technical experts.

Contact to register.

SMART staff speak at 5th Annual Myanmar Garment Exhibition, organize business networking event

On Saturday, June 25th SMART Myanmar’s Team Leader, Jacob Clere and SMART technical experts May Mi Kyaw (social compliance) and Zayar Oo (production efficiency) presented at the 5th Annual Myanmar Textile and Garment Exhibition about the project’s technical consultancy services.

SMART social compliance expert May Mi Kyaw speaking at the exhibition.
SMART social compliance expert May Mi Kyaw speaking at the exhibition.

The audience consisted of about one dozen visiting factories. This was the first ever topical seminar conducted at this annual industry exhibition. SMART Myanmar also organized and facilitated a 2nd seminar given by Roshan Ranawake from Control Union on environmental standards and certifications.

Later that evening, SMART Myanmar’s local partner, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, hosted their 2nd Annual Monsoon Meet-up event. This evening business networking event built upon the success of last year’s initial Monsoon Meet-up. Approximately 190 guests attended from across the industry – factories, service providers, suppliers and fashion retailers.

One of SMART Myanmar’s project objectives is to increase the capacity of the MGMA. This involves a combination of professional staff development, increased services delivery and enhanced capacity to positively impact sustainable consumption and production in Myanmar. Business networking events, business matchmaking services, association research capacity, policy advocacy and advisory support for factories on social compliance and environmental sustainability are all outcomes of SMART Myanmar’s ongoing partnership with the MGMA.

Nearly 200 individuals from a wide variety of factories, buyer and service providers attended the MGMA's recent business networking event.
Nearly 200 individuals from a wide variety of factories, buyer and service providers attended the MGMA’s recent business networking event.

4th SMART Social Compliance Academy™ launching on July 14th & 15th

The next SMART Social Compliance Academy™ will commence on July 14th and 15th. To date, 16 garment factories have completed the SMART Social Compliance Academy™, benefiting from an innovative combination of workshop training and on-site consultancy support. The registration deadline is July 9th.

The Academy program is designed with an innovative combination of group training and on-site consultancy. Key outputs for participating factories are:

• Comprehensive social compliance audit and detailed corrective action plan based on international best practices and ILO standards.
• Detailed, prioritized and factory-specific “corrective action plan” (CAP) which addresses the root causes of problems and establishes a framework for a continuous improvement approach.
• Additional on-site consultancy support to implement improvements over the course of 5 to 6 months.
• Inclusion in the SMART alumni network – a growing group of factory managers in Myanmar committed to striving for social compliance best practices.

Each round of the academy is capped at 10 participating factories, maximum. The program is specially designed for medium-to-large sized factories. SMART offers a different consultancy program for small factories known as the SCORE program.

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Social Compliance Academy letter and application (July, 2016)

Social Compliance Academy (PDF) Myanmar language updated

SMART Myanmar’s partner, ADFIAP, conducts ‘green finance’ briefing with Myanmar Central Bank and Banks Association

Written by ADFIAP staff

In line with ADFIAP’s advocacy on sustainable environmental development and as one of its major tasks as a partner of the Switch Asia project, SMEs for Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency (SMART Myanmar), ADFIAP Secretary General Octavio B. Peralta and ADFIAP Consulting Head Corazon D. Conde conducted an awareness briefing on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) for Myanmar Central Bank officials and members of the Myanmar Banks Association (MBA) on January 22, 2016 at the MBA Building in Yangon.

The advocacy campaign/awareness briefing commenced with an overview of the SMART Myanmar 2nd project phase, presented by Ms. Su Tayar Lin, Project Manager. The briefing introduced the concept of SCP and its relevance to banks in promoting investments in environmentally-friendly processes and systems such as cleaner production, waste minimization, resource conservation, energy efficiency, pollution prevention and control, among others, with the aim of enabling businesses to reduce their environmental footprints, and in the process, minimize environmental risks and comply with national and international environmental laws. The role of banks in SCP promotion and the opportunities that abound in green investments were also showcased with success stories under the SMART Cebu project in the Philippines involving the greening of three (3) industry sectors namely: Fashion Accessories; Furnitures and Furnishings; and Gifts Toys and Housewares. Green finance case studies of ADFIAP members in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Palau, China, Thailand and the Philippines were also presented.

The event also served as a platform for sharing of experiences on current green initiatives among the participants to give ADFIAP an indication of the level of awareness and involvement of said banks in environmental issues and concerns.

Part of ADFIAP’s role in the project is to design and roll-out a responsive and demand-driven “green finance program” for the Myanmar Central Bank and MBA that will spur the development of new financing schemes to support the SCP activities of businesses. In this regard, the participants were requested to fill-up training needs assessment questionnaire to be able to understand and assess better the current practice of banks in terms of financing green projects and to help develop a training program and curriculum whose objective is to empower, further enhance and assist loan officers in the credit evaluation of green projects under a risk-mitigated environment.

A total of 25 participants attended the briefing. Dr. Sein Maung, Chairman of First Private Bank Ltd. and Vice-Chairman of MBA, opened the advocacy campaign and awareness briefing with his welcome remarks and inspirational talk on the importance for banks to prepare themselves to face the challenges of green banking to remain competitive in this new green economy.

(This article was originally published on the ADFIAP website).

SMART Myanmar facilitates the first ever Code of Conduct for Myanmar’s apparel industry

Participatory approach produced realistic and contextually relevant document by Jacob Clere

Small photo, Ambassador KobiaSMART Myanmar first discussed a garment industry “code of conduct” with The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) in early 2013. At that time, a couple things became quite clear after initial discussions: 1) The MGMA wanted to write its own “Code of Conduct” informed by local knowledge and context and 2) Knowledge on internationally accepted social compliance and responsible business practices was severely lacking in Myanmar’s garment sector.

Thus, a journey towards improved social compliance practices in the Myanmar garment industry was started. As it happened, SMART Myanmar was not acting alone. MGMA had already been promoting improved management techniques via their training institute. As well, CBI from the Netherlands, the ILO and several other initiatives also started providing seminars and workshops focused around improving working conditions and management practices in Myanmar’s garment factories.

In November 2013, SMART Myanmar and the MGMA organized a “Code of Conduct” workshop with Ms. Juliane Schroeder, an expert from one of SMART’s implementing partners, the Confederation of the German Textile and Fashion Industry t+m. This was a full day participatory tow day workshop at which the MGMA Code of Conduct was discussed in great detail. For several factory owners present at this workshop, knowledge on international practices related to child labour, fire safety and overtime was previously almost entirely unknown. Ms. Schroeder introduced the ILO’s core conventions and the United Nation’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Importantly, a subcommittee of the MGMA Executive Board was established at the end of this workshop and tasked with primary responsibility for writing the MGMA Code, with support for this endeavour freely available from SMART Myanmar.

In 2014, progress on the Code stalled. A half-finished draft was considered again and again, but the most sensitive issues like working hours per week and young workers kept being discussed, and really became stumbling blocks towards implementation.

The issue of child labour continued to be heavily discussed. The condition which MGMA arrived at was to limit young workers to beginning work at 15 years of age. MGMA strongly supports child labour remediation for young workers and supports efforts to improve the availability of free education for children and teenagers in Myanmar. As such, factories adhering to the MGMA Code of Conduct are embracing ILO Convention 138 recomending 15 as the minimum age for young workers.

Progress on finalizing the MGMA Code of Conduct picked up again following SMART Myanmar’s social compliance workshops in 2014. In 2013 and early 2014, SMART had been working more heavily on factory productivity improvements and energy efficiency to set preconditions to offer assistance on areas related to social compliance. SMART launched a CSR program together with Systain, a CSR consultancy company in September 2014 which was extremely well-received by participants. This followed on SMART’s CSR public event in October, 2014, at which the EU Ambassador and several local companies and CSR experts discussed responsible business practices in Myanmar’s manufacturing sector.

Indeed, there was a real hunger by local garment factory owners and managers to improve safety and working standards in their factories. Before SMART’s programs, such businesses did not have the knowledge and resources necessary to make the requisite improvements, but after working with and learning from SMART’s experts, factory owners in Myanmar began to realize that they are, in fact, capable of running successful businesses wherein responsible business practices actually facilitate and encourage new orders by opening them up to the EU market.

As such, by November 2014, MGMA’s Executive Board reached a position where they felt confident enough in their knowledge of social compliance and responsible garment manufacturing that they organized a session to finalize their draft Code of Conduct and produce a document suitable for ratification.

The MGMA Code of Conduct Subcomittee was re-convened in December 2014 by Mr. Jacob Clere, SMART Myanmar’s SCP Project Manager based at the MGMA. Ms. Schroeder, from t+m returned to assist in the final drafting because t+m, being an association themselves, have developed their own Code of Conduct as well. Also present were Ms. Simone Lehmann, SMART Myanmar Project Director from sequa gGmbH and Mr. Paul Tinsley, Business Partnerships Manager from Sheffield Chamber of Commerce in the UK (one of SMART’s other implementation partners). These several individuals from SMART Myanmar gathered with MGMA Chairman, Mr. Myint Soe and the other members of the MGMA Code of Conduct Subcommittee at the national chamber of commerce building to go through the draft Code of Conduct line-by-line to offer advice on changes, finalization and ratification.

Following this meeting, the wider MGMA Executive Board gathered for one final private meeting to discuss and ratify this first ever “Code of Conduct” for Myanmar’s apparel industy. Although intended as a guide and instrument for MGMA’s member companies, the Code is also relevant and useful for other industries and manufacturers in Myanmar. Several other associations have started to inquire about the MGMA CoC already.

The MGMA Code of Conduct was introduced to the public starting on February 1st, 2015 as a voluntary document to guide corporate behavior and inform on best practices.

The way forward
SMART Myanmar is presently working with the MGMA on activities and workshops to implement the standards outlined in the Code. Throughout 2015, MGMA has the free support of SMART Myanmar’s industrial engineering team to assist their factory members on relevant issues.

On the basis of the SMART Compliance Academy, the MGMA Executive Board and wider membership plan further steps to make the whole industry comply with the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association’s Code of Conduct. The companies indicated the need for sharing knowledge concerning CSR and requested monthly on-site monitoring of the changes initiated by the SMART compliance academy in order to keep the momentum for change up and running. Corrective action plans regarding factory improvements were welcomed by the compliance academy participants. In order to ensure sustainability of CSR knowledge, board members of the MGMA decided to hire an additional full time staff-member to create a CSR desk.

It was pointed out by MGMA’s Chairman Myint Soe that the CSR issue is crucial not only because buyers want to see compliance fitting with international standards, especially European buyers, but also because better working conditions encourage factory workers to be more motivated and satisfied in their jobs, which itself results in improved factory productivity. The Code of Conduct therefore has been translated into Burmese and bi-lingual posters will soon be available for display in all factories. A two way communication concerning the Code shall be set up, both to buyers and manufacturers. Furthermore, a round table discussion about the MGMA Code of Conduct and social compliance standards is presently being organized by the EU Delegation, SMART and MGMA. During this dialogue, to be held 25 March 2015, the EU Delegation to Myanmar will foster dialogue between the ILO, government ministries, the MGMA, trade union confederations and international brands to increase compliance with the MGMA Code of Conduct.

Photo caption
Roland Kobia, EU Ambassador to Myanmar discusses at SMART Myanmar’s October 2014 CSR Forum how responsible business practices are essential for manufacturers wishing to export to the European Union.
Source: SMART Myanmar

Adobe Pagemaker training by SMART Myanmar senior project manager

6. Adobe Pagemaker Training _ photoIn order to effectively help companies develop professional factory profiles for the upcoming Europe business match-making event in Berlin, Germany which is scheduled on 16 February 2015, Ms. Theeri Kay Thi, Senior Project Manager from SMART Myanmar gave a half-day training to the SCP trainees on Adobe Pagemaker software.

Firstly, the team rehashed basic design techniques and then all trainees prepared basic brochures individually. As such, the team learned simple yet powerful and easy to use page layout tools.

ILO training with SMART team bolsters understanding and re-enforces key concepts

5. ILO on industrial training _ photo 1In late October, the SMART Myanmar team attended a training at the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Yangon office on social dialogue and labour law. Ms. Win Min Aye introduced the objectives of the ILO and explained about the ILO Core Convections. Presently, Myanmar has ratified three of the ILO Core Convections, namely, Forced Labor Law C29, Freedom of Association C87, and Child Labor C182.

Ms Win Min Aye also explained to the team about the concepts of “freedom of association” and “collective bargaining”. In particular the discussion focused on the ways in which free association and collective bargaining can protect workers’ rights, but at the same time also be in an employer’s business interest. To be sure, the right to freely associate is an integral part of living in a free and open society. This is something factory owners in Myanmar are quickly coming to understand and appreciate.
The following points were highlighted during the discussion:
Human freedom and dignity as foundational concepts essential for employer/worker relations.
Sustainability of the market economy via wealth transfers made possible by worker rights.
• Orderly labour relations made possible by collective bargaining.
• Democracy and its role in worker and employer organizations.

In collective bargaining the SMART team were made aware that (except armed forces and government administrators), all workers in Myanmar now have the right to bargain collectively. For some in outside countries, this might seem obvious, but Myanmar was isolated and under military rule for decades and such fundamental rights are only recently being grasped and secured.
The team learned about the Labour Organization Law of 2011, which was passed by parliament with several main purposes including:
• An Industrial relations environment that supports economic and social growth
• A strong focus on skills development
• Building better dialogue between employers and workers
• Respect, understanding and mutually beneficial solutions

The workshop concluded with an extensive discussion on social dialogue, which is the best way to solve conflicts which sometimes arise between employers and employees.

Since the beginning of the project the SMART team has worked extensively with production experts and experts on sustainable consumption and production & lean manufacturing, but the team’s exposure to labour law and social dialogue was previously not as developed. As such, the team is grateful for the ILO’s training on these important concepts, which provide knowledge useful throughout all of SMART’s factory activities.

SMART Myanmar conducts training on current labor and occupational health and safety laws

labour ohsOn September 25th and 26th 2014, there was an internal training about Myanmar’s labor laws and occupational health and safety laws at the SMART Myanmar office. The training from an attorney with Polastri, Wint & Partners law firm was designed to provide a comprehensive awareness of the existing Labour and Occupational Health and Safety laws in Myanmar as well as government rules, orders, directives, notifications, common procedures and regulations.

To improve the quality and production capacity of garment factories, it is of course necessary for the SMART team to be compliant with the legal requirements in the existing legal framework. Also, this training helps the SMART team build an understanding as to how critical issues in factories – especially those things related to social compliance – are identified and handled.

The training was conducted by Daw Wint Thandar Oo, Co-founder of PWP and who has more than thirteen years of experience in corporate and commercial matters in Myanmar and U Tin Sein, Senior Associate at Polastri, Wint & Partners, himself experienced as a former law lecturer of the University of Yangon for 14 years. Both Presenters prepared the presentation “The Existing Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Laws of Myanmar” and explained the laws briefly and 12 existing labor laws out of 22 had been introduced. Specific training contents included:

1. Labor related provisions in 2008 Constitution of the Union of Myanmar
2. The Factory Act, 1951
3. The Oil-Field (Labor and Welfare) Act, 1951
4. The Leave and Holiday Act, 1951
5. The Shops and Establishment Act, 1951
6. The Social Security Law, 2014, The Social Security Rules, 2014
7. The Payment of Wages Act, 1936
8. The Minimum Wages Law, 2013, The Minimum Wages Rules, 2013
9. The Employment and Skill Development Law,2013
10. The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923
11. The labor Organization Law, 2011, The Labor Organization Rules, 2012
12. The Settlement of labor Dispute Law, 2012, The Settlement of Labor Dispute Rules, 2012

During the training, all participants raised questions and actively discussed about the laws and penalties. Especially, everyone discussed about workplace safety and health measures, working hours, overtime, working on days-off and calculation methods for overtime and penalties. Interestingly, the current social security law gives substantial protection to workers, with benefits available for sickness, maternity leave, employment injury, invalidity benefits, superannuation benefits, medical treatments, and the right to residency. Therefore, it can be said that the legal framework regarding OHS laws in Myanmar is perhaps not lacking so much as enforcement of that framework which is lacking.

Understanding the OHS laws fully is critically important, as SMART’s SCP Assistants are ideally placed to pass this knowledge along to the factory owners and managers with whom they closely work to help ensure compliance and, consequently, healthier and safer factories.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) conducts capacity building training for Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association Staff in Yangon

Paul_JacobPR to promote the SCP concept and commercialisation were the themes in the latest round of capacity building training with the MGMA team.

SMART Myanmar is a project funded by the European Union. “SMART Myanmar is the abbreviation of SMEs for environmental Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency. The local partners of SMART are the Myanmar Garment Association (MGMA) and UMFCCI. SMART implements all its activities through and with MGMA. Sequa g GmbH German leads a consortium of 5 partners who jointly implement all activities.

In the larger framework of SMART Myanmar activities regarding awareness creation about SCP in Myanamar. the MGMA staff were introduced to various new methods in raising the profile of their organisation to both their membership and the international community. The focus was on the new website as a key tool for promotion of the SCP concept and communication. A number of topics were discussed with the team including writing press releases, how to make the web site interesting and professional and uses for the web site to promote two-way communication.

In addition the staff were introduced to commercialisation and asked to participate in a facilitated discussion on services and products they could deliver which might generate income for MGMA. A number of ideas were generated from these discussions which may become a platform for the project partners to design a number of commercial activities. These activities will be able to generate income to improve services to members consolidating MGMA’s postion as the key membership organisation for the Garment and Textile sector.

Paul Tinsley, Head of Enterprise at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, who delivered the training said, “There are often issues for membership organisations in transforming countries around the attraction of new members and retention of existing ones. The garment sector is growing in Myanmar and our role in SMART Myanmar is to ensure that MGMA is at the heart of this growth becoming the driving force behind these exciting developments. We want them to be the single point of contact for networking opportunities, information dissemination especially on SCP and providing support for international buyers.”

The MGMA staff have proved to be very entrepreneurial and have given us some great ideas to work on, and our focus for the SMART programme is to ensure that, when the project ends, MGMA will be in a strong position to sustain and develop its role within the sector in Myanmar. If we can develop just a few of these great ideas I am sure this will happen.

Additional support in specific promotional activities, and the commercialisation of these activities, is on going and the intention is to focus on some specific areas to develop the expertise of existing staff whilst generating income to increase resource in the organisation. Topics such as commercial events, sponsorships and the creation of a databank of research and information available for the international community are the three key topics being targeted.