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 – [email protected]