Myanmar is an emerging destination for multinationals and major suppliers, particularly in the garment sector. It is a place where Code of Conduct compliance is challenging due to systemic weaknesses in human resources practices among suppliers, minimal levels of awareness of rights on the part of workers, a minimally-developed civil society, and regulation that is often non-existent.
U.S. companies doing business in Myanmar (above a certain financial threshold) are required to report publicly to the State Department on “policies and procedures with respect to human rights [and] workers’ rights” that govern their activities in that country. Other companies are encouraged to follow best practice in reporting as a mechanism to ensure that stakeholders are confident the Myanmar business operations respect human and workers’ rights, and to facilitate improvement in business practice in Myanmar. If the Myanmar business sector is going to embrace modern human resources and accountability practices, international brands can play a large and supportive role.
Verité’s work in Myanmar over the past year (some of which was reported on by the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy, and some by Gap, Inc. itself), illustrates some of the specific dangers. These include serious risks, including:
- Weaknesses in age verification systems, presenting a high risk of child and underage labor;
- Minimal awareness by workers of basic human resources and benefits practices, meaning risks of wage, hour and payment violations;
- Under-developed infrastructure, meaning fire, chemical and electrical safety weaknesses.
Verité’s work in Myanmar is coordinated by Verité Southeast Asia based in Manila, and conducted in Myanmar by our international lead auditors and local teams who, as typical for Verité auditors, have expertise in gathering information from workers and identification of systems-based root causes.
In addition to audits, Verité has conducted training for workers and for suppliers in Myanmar facilities. For more information, please contact Declan Croucher, Director of Business Development; or Coco Bagadion, Verité Southeast Asia Executive Director.