Transparency is the buzzword in the global apparel industry right now.
At every major industry conference, the word is used repeatedly, whether it’s in the context of apparel supply chains and providing information about which suppliers are being used or telling consumers more about how the garments they purchase were made and the conditions in which they were produced.
In addition to having an important social and ethical aspect, there is a critical business aspect to transparency, too. Increasingly, we are likely to see investors and financial institutions steering clear of companies that lack transparency in their operations, financial statements or strategies. Investors cannot afford to take a leap into the unknown, and do not want their investments to cause them reputational damage further down the line.
Often transparency is mentioned in the context of apparel brands and retailers, with consumers increasingly demanding more information about their favorite clothing shops. Better, clearer product labelling will certainly become a major theme moving forward. But what about the apparel supply chain? What are suppliers doing to make themselves more open and visible to the outside world?
Actually, suppliers in Bangladesh have made huge strides in recent years. The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is now the safest garment production center in the world, and suppliers there have collectively invested huge amounts to ensure that they can now adhere to world-class safety standards.
Denim Expert, a jeans manufacturer which is based in Chittagong, is at the vanguard of this change which is sweeping the industry. The company has always been a great believer in transparency, and the company’s owner, Mostafiz Uddin, is someone who always practices what he preaches on this issue. There is good reason for Denim Expert to take this approach—in short, the business has nothing to hide.
Having been established in 2009, Denim Expert has become a genuine leader in the global denim industry in terms of its sophisticated, sustainable production processes on the one hand, and its commitment to social responsibility on the other.
On the latter of these issues, Uddin often refers to the 1,900 employees at his business as family.
“If you can’t produce transparently, then you should not be producing at all,” Uddin said at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2018.
These are not just empty words. Uddin regularly invites prominent stakeholders in the global apparel industry to visit Denim Expert so that they can see for themselves the quiet revolution that is taking place at this most progressive of businesses. This is true transparency in action, for seeing really is believing in this industry; certifications can only tell you so much about a business.
Uddin takes a huge amount of pride in ensuring that all of his employees are treated fairly and with respect and are paid a living wage, while the working conditions provided at Denim Expert meet the highest international standards.
But there is more than this. Denim Expert goes above and beyond with regards social issues, with Uddin’s vision being to increase the living standard of people in Bangladesh through economic growth and better working conditions.
In addition to providing ongoing training and development programs for all members of staff, Denim Expert has also taken some bold steps to further the cause of oppressed groups. The business took the step recently of employing two transgender workers, a bold and enlightened move that saw Denim Expert become the first business in Bangladesh to take decisive steps on the issue of gender inclusion.
The company is also leading the way with technical innovations that can improve the working conditions of the workforce. For example, Denim Expert has installed computer-controlled laser machines that, using the latest technology, can produce the highest standards of worn and aged effects, which had previously been achieved through methods that were detrimental to the health of the workforce due to the intense amount of manual work required.
The production site at Denim Expert also offers good ventilation in the work areas, which also have access to plenty of natural light, and community facilities for the employees.
Denim Expert places emphasis on appropriate salaries, education and extensive medical care for all employees. Important events in the life of employees, including a marriage or the birth of a child are supported by the company with financial grants and, in special cases, Denim Expert also covers the costs of private hospital care and medical treatment.
It’s an enlightened approach and one that also pays great dividends in terms of a happy, productive workforce.
Technical innovation is also key at Denim Expert. The issue of water is a major consideration here, given that the denim production process is extremely water-intensive.
Denim Expert arranges regular training on water system management and ways to use water efficiently and has published a water saving handbook for all staff.
The business has also installed water flow meters to monitor water consumption at different sections throughout the factory and has a water leakage monitoring and repair process in place together with an upgraded water maintenance schedule to check all water-related equipment.
Meanwhile, the use of ozone machines helps in reducing the back-staining levels in garments during the wash process, hence these machines help in reducing the amount of water and chemicals used in laundry.
Denim Expert has also installed a rainwater harvesting system at its factory premises that collects rainwater that falls in an underground reservoir. The quality of the water is pristine, and this collected water is used in the company’s laundry.
This, in conjunction with other water-saving practices, means Denim Expert’s average consumption of water per jean stands at 24 liters a jean, whereas the industry average is about 60 liters.