By Wendy Wilder
The Case of Viyellatex
What do we really mean by sustainable supply chains? How are suppliers in developing countries practicing responsible business?
Although the answer varies by country and company, many companies in Bangladesh are going beyond the traditional notion of CSR as philanthropy and are making significant contributions to social development in ways that enable business success and economic growth.
One company I had the privilege to visit while in Bangladesh is Viyellatex, a ready-made garments manufacturer that supplies leading UK retailers. The company’s approach to corporate sustainability is to “ensure growth, expansion and profit by being socially and environmentally responsible”.
The company’s social programmes reflect a belief that a healthy and educated population is needed to develop society. Viyellatex embraces responsible business throughout the organisation and the surrounding community.
In the nearby community, Viyellatex plans to open a school for 30 physically handicapped children this summer. The school will be named Bikash, which means ‘to blossom’ in Bangla. To me, this symbolises responsible business at Viyellatex – enabling employees and community members to grow their capacity.
Nearby, Viyellatex, USAID and Save the Children run seven schools for pre-school children, each in the centre of a local community. At one school I visited, 30 children with big brown eyes sat quietly in a circle listening to the teacher and practicing their ABCs. As with all kids, they like going to school to play games and, as an afterthought, to learn new things. The intent is to give these kids a foundation for learning and to encourage parents to send their children to primary school.
To encourage growth among its employees, Viyellatex provides training and social benefits to all employees, including an on-site medical centre and crèche to encourage women to remain in the workforce while upholding family responsibilities.
Inside the clean, brightly-lit factory, I met physically handicapped workers, two of whom recently won an award sponsored by Marks & Spencer for their achievements. This forms part of a larger partnership with The Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) to provide training and employment for people of all abilities.
To me, suppliers such as Viyellatex are not only providing education and employment opportunities, they are slowly influencing change within society, helping people to see the value of education, and the contribution both men and women of all abilities can make to their personal growth as well as that of the nation.
Among a population of 161 million people, an estimated 55 million are below the age of 14 and an estimated 51 million are women between the ages of 15 and 64 (CIA World Factbook, 2012). This demonstrates significant potential for social and economic development of Bangladesh if more women and children are given opportunities similar to those offered by Viyellatex.