Report from July 2016 Dhaka trip

In July of 2016 SMART Myanmar sent a delegation to Dhaka, Bangladesh to initiate a first-ever exchange of knowhow on running community centers and programs for women garment workers. The group from Myanmar consisted of SMART Myanmar’s MGMA staff, staff from Thone Pann Hla and two garment workers. In Dhaka they met with representatives of Awaj Foundation, GIZ PSES, a garment factory, the staff at two different “women’s cafes” and dozens of garment workers. Below is a report summarizing the activities and observations made during this study mission:

Dhaka Trip Report

2016: Year in review

SMART Myanmar’s 2nd project phase started in January, 2016. During the course of the year the project was pleased to see increased interest from factories in the project’s core training programs. In particular, SMART’s nine person technical team delivered:

• 14 SMART Social Compliance Academies (long duration on-site program for medium and large sized factories)
• 7 SCORE programs (long duration on-site program for smaller factories)
• 3 HR Management Labs (3 days workshop on garment factory HR topics)
• 10 SMART Energy Efficiency Assessments (on site program featuring an AS/NZ 3598.2 energy audit and energy reduction report)

In addition to these factory programs, SMART Myanmar hosted numerous special training events and workshops, in particular, seminars on ZDHC and wet processing with partner Made-by, supporting the MGMA’s social compliance awards dinner and special training modules on workplace communications, occupational health and safety and environmental management.

Altogether, SMART Myanmar had approximately 150 garment factories participate in on-site training modules, workshops or attend events related to environmental management and workplace safety and health.

“Especially salary and attendance systems were improved during the SMART Social Compliance Academy™. We hope that can improve the workers’ satisfaction. We can avoid staff turnover and strikes. Regarding child labor prevention and young worker protection, we can fully prevent child labor now and hope to go this way in the future. We have some weaknesses in the field of health and safety. We need to provide training for the workers to raise their awareness on health and safety. We really want them to work in a good situation because the more improvements on their performance, the more profits for our business, this is the benefit for both sides.” Factory owner from one of SMART’s 2016 academies.

Beyond the factory programs, SMART’s implementing partners ADFIAP and Made-by were able to conduct 3 weeks of financial services trainings with managers from two dozen local banks, and assess the environmental sustainability criteria within public procurement procedures in Myanmar. Implementing partner AVE was able to begin more intensive capacity building with the project’s local partner, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.

All major targets were achieved in 2016 and the project team is powering forward into 2017 with higher goals.

Sewer at a factory in Yangon.

April 28th is ‘World Day for Safety & Health at Work’

Column written by Jacob A. Clere, Team Leader

Tomorrow is “World Day for Safety and Health at Work”. Although every single day should be about maintaining a safe and healthy workplace, tomorrow is a good time to give some deeper thought to your workplace health & safety practices. Is your company safe? Are your employees happy & healthy?

A worker practices with a fire extinguisher during a practice demonstration organized by a factory in the SMART Social Compliance Academy™.
A worker practices with a fire extinguisher during a practice demonstration organized by a factory in the SMART Social Compliance Academy™.

Above is a photo from a fire safety training we organized with one of the factories in our SMART Social Compliance Academy™. Ensuring effective OHS systems is critically important when managing a garment factory. Fire safety, personal protective equipment, medical response ability, chemical safety, workplace ergonomics – – the list goes on. Whereas safety is already important for a company with 10 employees, safety should be 100 times as important for a factory with 1,000 employees. Managing a large company entails substantial responsibilities.

Our team of technical experts works with factories on improving OHS issues nearly every day. Here is a list of actionable items which we find are “quick wins” and relatively easy to implement to improve your workplace health & safety:

• Conduct a fire drill with your staff. Also, if you don’t already do it, put in place a target/goal for regular fire drills (i.e. twice per year).
• Review your chemical safety procedures – make sure any potentially dangerous chemicals are stored safely in a dedicated area with nearby MSDS sheets for each chemical. Chemicals should never be stored in unlabeled or wrongly labeled bottles.
• Regularly inspect and review your company’s emergency exits – are all emergency pathways kept clear of obstacles and all exit doors kept unlocked during all working hours? Are emergency exits clearly indicated with signs and arrows?
• Personal protective equipment – review if all workers have easy access to personal protective equipment. Ensure a manager is responsible for requiring employees to use PPE and try to purchase PPE which is comfortable to use.
• Boiler safety and generator safety – is your boiler situated a safe distance away from your factory building? Is your generator? Are both situated and designed so as not to emit hazardous exhaust fumes close to the workplace facility? Also, make sure your boiler is inspected regularly according to the terms of Myanmar’s 2015 boiler inspection law.
• Electrical safety – are all electric boxes and wires properly sealed, marked and maintained by a qualified electrician? Exposed wires, overdrawn voltage and fabric are a dangerous combination we sometimes encounter at factories in Myanmar. If this is your current set-up, hire a qualified electrician and get it fixed properly. It’s well worth it.
• Ventilation – is sufficient fresh air available in the facility? Are workers wearing masks to prevent them from breathing in dangerous particulates? Are particulates and hazardous dust kept confined in sealed areas of the factory? This can be especially important in Myanmar for the factories dealing with down feathers and poly padding.
• Ergonomics – download the ILO’s “ergonomics checkpoints” smartphone app.

These are just some of the topics to consider. If you run a factory in Myanmar or if you source garments from a factory in Myanmar you may contact our team to receive advice or support. We run a regular and intensive program for comprehensive OHS support, and we also conduct regular ad hoc trainings, workshops and seminars.

SMART Myanmar accelerates social compliance program, launches new activities

The Chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association speaking at the SMART Myanmar launch event.
More than 200 guests gathered at the UMFCCI Building (Myanmar’s national chamber of commerce headquarters) on January 19th to listen to speeches by the Ambassador of the European Union, Mr. Roland Kobia and Director General U Win Shein from the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security’s Factory Inspections Department, as well as several of the implementing partners of SMART Myanmar, an EU funded project under the SWITCH-Asia program.

“SMART Myanmar has a large team of specialists and experts. They have really helped factories understand social and environmental compliance issues and make important corrective actions. The MGMA is pleased to continue this partnership as we all continue to improve and grow our garment industry in Myanmar,” said Mr. Myint Soe, Chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, one of SMART Myanmar’s implementing partners.

SMART Myanmar was initially funded under the SWITCH Asia program from 2013-2015 and previously focused on making social and environmental improvements in Myanmar’s garment industry. The project has already engaged with dozens of local garment factories on social & environmental compliance issues, providing technical support and capacity building for the local garment association, among other things, helping the MGMA to develop its professional capacity and draft a first-ever Code of Conduct for its member companies.

Following on the successful implementation of activities during the first 3 years, SMART Myanmar has launched a new 4-year project phase which will scale-up, mainstream and accelerate many of the previous activities – such as assistance to factories on social compliance and human resources management – as well as introducing new objectives related to promoting sustainable production and transparency in the procurement practices of Myanmar’s government.

“Garment has quickly emerged as the star sector in Myanmar’s economy. The growth numbers of the sector are impressive, not least thanks to the trade preferences granted by the EU. Exporting to Europe creates an incentive for Myanmar companies and authorities to step up their quality and management. This is a huge opportunity for economic development provided that the benefits are shared among all and that the environment can be preserved,” said Mr. Roland Kobia, Ambassador of the European Union to Myanmar.

The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security was also present for the launch ceremony. Mr. Win Shein, Director General said, “Starting in 2013, SMART Myanmar began introducing international standards to our local factories. In cooperation with German brands and business associations, our local industry started to understand the requirements and expectations of European buyers…Especially, safe and healthy conditions for workers and reasonable working hours within the requirements of the law.”

SMART Myanmar has a team of eight local social compliance and HR experts who were trained during the first project phase. In cooperation with international colleagues, the project team is aiming to train 400 HR managers during the next four years and to make social and environmental compliance foundational principles in Myanmar’s garment industry. The SMART Myanmar Project Director, Ms. Simone Lehmann from sequa gGmbH said during the launch, “The aim of the SMART project is to actively promote and support the sustainable production of garments “Made in Myanmar” striving to increase the international competitiveness of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in this sector. Our project aims at scaling-up and institutionalizing successful practices in Myanmar which were developed and implemented during SMART’s first phase from 2013–2015. By sharing international experience, SMART supports local companies meeting the consumer requirements in Europe for products that are good for the environment and for the people”.

Jacob Clere, SMART Myanmar’s Team Leader said, “I’m pleased to have a strong team working alongside me. Altogether we have more than a dozen experts and specialists – both local and international – most of whom have spent the last 3 years working with garment factories in Myanmar. My team understands the social and environmental challenges the industry is facing and we are focused on delivering targeted and effective support.”

Questions, please contact:

Jacob Clere, SMART Myanmar Team Leader –

Social Standards Handbook for local garment manufacturers in Myanmar

image001Through the comprehensive trainings and the capacity building with the SMART Myanmar Social Compliance Academy, which touch upon the most fundamental issues of social compliance, local factories have been able to learn how to implement long-term and ethically responsible practices, necessary to improve their competitiveness in the global market.

The easy-to-read guidance provides a general overview dedicated to factory managers on the main issues of social compliance, underlying its strategic role within the garment sector. In particular, the guide presents the most fundamental steps of how local factories should implement an effective social management system, by also giving clear examples and best practices derived from factories in Myanmar. Based on the experiences of the SMART Myanmar Social Compliance Academies this handbook was composed to specifically focus on the needs and constraints of Myanmar garment factories.

This handbook shall reach out and inspire a wide number of factories in Myanmar.

SMART Myanmar Social Compliance Handbook English

Smart Myanmar Export Promotion Guide

Promotion Guide Cover PageThis 2015 Export Promotion Guide has been specially designed to assist Myanmar manufacturers who wish to export garments to the European Union (EU), a market encompassing 28 nations and more than 500 million consumers.

Myanmar’s garment manufacturers have, for the past several years, primarily exported to Japan and South Korea. This has provided dependable business opportunities for the industry and there is a tremendous potential for garment manufacturers in Myanmar to discover new opportunities exporting their products to the EU.

Whether you are a manufacturer seeking to better understand EU trade procedures, laws and documentation, or perhaps, you are trying to re-configure your production set-up to better cater to the needs of European buyers. Whatever present situation you are in, this guide explores and maps out the various technical and procedural considerations essential for engaging with European buyers.

SMART Myanmar Export Promotion Guide – Myanmar Garment Sector