The apparel industry in Bangladesh needs to improve its image for guaranteeing the country's long-term prosperity. The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka in April 2013 sent shockwaves through the textile and clothing industries. More than 1,100 lives were lost in the incident, and Bangladesh's reputation as a reliable low- cost location for clothing suffered a severe blow in the eyes of consumers and major brands.
Some western buyers have cancelled orders in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse and placed them elsewhere. Moreover, a number of Bangladeshi factories have been blacklisted. There is a danger that retailers and consumers will view cheap clothing from Bangladesh as coming at too high a cost in human terms, and that they will prefer other countries where costs are low but similar tragedies have not occurred -- such as Cambodia and Vietnam.
Sales in the US import market could be negatively affected following a decision by the US government to suspend Bangladesh's preferential duty treatment under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme, and Bangladesh's preferential access to the EU could also be revoked if the government does not take necessary steps to significantly improve building safety standards and overall labor conditions in the country.
The government and major brands need to work together with suppliers to change the apparel industry into one in which there are safe factories, decent wages and respect for workers' rights. However, gains will only be sustainable if the added labor costs are absorbed by buyers as well as manufacturers.