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Better Factories Cambodia Launches Online Transparency Database

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), an organization dedicated to improving Cambodia’s reputation as a garment sourcing country, launched an online database this week to disclose compliance information about individual garment factories.

So far, it seems the transparency has proved beneficial to improvements in the industry.

A BFC statement said, “Transparent reporting on factories’ compliance with 21 basic legal requirements has provided an incentive to improve working conditions in Cambodia’s garment industry. One third of the 51 factories included in the March 2014 Critical Issues database made improvements on these twenty-one issues, as well as others, in anticipation of their inclusion in this initial report. The total number of Critical Issues violations in this group of factories fell from 59 to 34 between December 2013 and February 2014–a 42% improvement.”

According to the report, fifteen factories in the database (29 percent) were already compliant on all twenty-one basic legal requirements in the “Critical Issues” category. Another fifteen factories made improvements between December 2013 and February 2014, making for a total of thirty factories (59 percent) with no Critical Issues violations. BFC said that factories slated for inclusion in future reports are also improving on critical issues.

Since BFC’s report on working conditions last July, improvements have been made that, according to BFC, reflect the impact transparent reporting has on working conditions. The number of factories conducting emergency evacuation drills went from 55 percent to 77 percent and proper payment of seniority-related benefits rose from 71 percent to 94 percent.

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BFC’s technical specialist Jason Judd, said, “The improvements are obviously good for workers, but good too for the factories that needed a new reason to meet these basic standards. The global garment industry needs more of this.”

Factories with the lowest compliance ratings (those falling two standard deviations below the mean for compliance) fall within a “Low Compliance” category in BFC’s database. One of the eleven factories in that list has since made verifiable improvements and removed itself from the unfavorable list.

If a union complies with the legal requirements for a strike, that information is also disclosed in the database. BFC said none of this month’s worker strikes included in the current database report met legal requirements.

According to ILO, “Compliance records on basic factory working conditions stand in stark contrast to the mass strikes over wage levels in hooting and wounding of workers by security forces, the detention of wage protesters, and the inability of unions to secure registrations in 2014. These issues are not dealt with in this report as BFC’s monitoring measures factory – level compliance, and does not, for example, address the adequacy of wage levels.”

Anna Gedda, social sustainability manager for H&M, said, “We are happy to see that improvements are being made and that the transparency database is now launched.” She added, “This shows that the government and the industry of Cambodia recognize the increasing importance of transparency and how this can accelerate improvements across the whole garment sector in Cambodia.”

Details for all factories covered in the initial transparency report can be found here.