Babylon Group setting standard in social compliance

BDApparelNews Desk
16 April 2019  

Inside a readymade garments factory in Bangladesh.

Inside a readymade garments factory in Bangladesh.

Starting from the scratch with a humble setup 33 years ago, Babylon Group has turned itself into one of the biggest names in Bangladesh’s booming apparel industry – now consisting of 18 different business units and employing over 11,500 people.

It matches to the hilt with other big names in the industry in every aspect of the business from production to revenue; but one thing that makes Babylon Group and all its factories stand out from others is its commitment to ethics and the standard it sets in social compliance.

The culture of its social compliance standard lies deep within the roots of its origin. From what Bangladesh Apparel News could learn from the group’s Executive Director Mohammad Hasan, who holds a postgraduate doctoral degree on the apparel industry, the standard was set in the founding of Babylon Group by two of its owners.

Two owners of Babylon Group were from the legendary Desh Garments of the ‘70’s which was already following high standards of compliance in that time. It was the culture of compliance and ethics of Desh Garments that was adopted in the birth of Babylon Group.

ABOUT BABYLON GROUP

Babylon Group is equipped to produce high quality knit and woven products and is completely reliant in production of woven/knitwear manufacturing, washing, printing, knitting, dyeing and finishing, embroidery, trims, and paper converting and packaging.

Among the 18 strategic business units (SBUs) of Babylon Group, mentionable are Babylon Garments, Babylon Dresses, Suravee Garments, Aboni Fashions, Aboni Knitwear, Aboni Textiles, Jupiter Embroideries, and Babylon Washing. The group also caters to local apparel demand through its local retail chain TRENDZ.

The group is a regular supplier to international brands like JC Penny, Walmart, Haggar, K-Mart, Jules, H&M, Zara, Dimensions, Kohl’s, Tesco and several others.

Babylon Group is reputed in production of high-quality apparel item for menswear, womenswear and kidswear in both woven and knit manufacturing departments. It produces shirts, tops, and T-shirts for menswear, womenswear and kidswear.

DEFINING THE COMPLIANCE PHILOSOPHY

“Compliance is a term only used in the case of Bangladesh,” says the group’s Executive Director Mohammad Hasan, who is the author of a book titled “Readymade garments industries in Bangladesh: A study on social compliance”.

“Anywhere else, this does not mean anything. Compliance is simply implementation of the existing laws and best practices available. For us it is an issue because Bangladesh has had major slack in implementation of the policies,” he tells Bangladesh Apparel News.

According to him, compliance is so much more than just the infrastructural safety and workplace security of the apparel factories.

On his hands, Babylon Group has taken the motto of compliance to the next level – social compliance; something Babylon Group takes very seriously. The examples of setting social compliance has come down to providing self-made cheap sanitary napkins to apparel workers to raise awareness of reproductive health and hygiene among the women.

REDEFINING SOCIAL COMPLIANCE

Babylon Group has implemented social compliance on the structural level and some of its regular schemes are scholarships for workers’ children, child development programmes, health services to apparel workers, relief and rehabilitation for the marginal community, entertainment programmes for its workers, and green industrialisation.

At the management level, it implements anti-discriminatory policies, anti-forced labour system, grievance management system, harassment and abuse management, recruitment management, working hour management system and subcontracting management policies.

“Due to our management practices and labour-friendly approach, we haven’t had an incident of unrest in any of our factories for the last 30 years,” Mohammad Hasan boasted. “I believe, we have implemented a model of friendly labour-owner relationship.”

What he claims seems true. Bangladesh Apparel News could not gather report of any incident involving workers of Babylon Group factories even during the swathe of labour unrest in December 2018 and January 2019, which was the biggest ever labour unrest witnessed in Bangladesh’s apparel industry in the recent times.

BEST PRACTICES IN LABOUR WELFARE

The management of Babylon Group has managed to enforce good practices in workforce management, also maintaining its implementation with equal attention.

The list of such good practices is long and it includes special increment based on performance, productivity incentive, financial assistance for education, marriage or medical purpose, scholarship for wards of the workers, recreation facilities at factories and others.

One very outstanding practice it follows is what it calls labour home welfare – meaning that the company tries to make living at home easier for its workers.

Explaining more about it, Executive Director Mohammad Hasan said: “After the Rana Plaza disaster, a foreign journalist knocked us and directed our attention to the state in which our workers were living. He had said that our employees were living without a fan in a room.”

“We sent out our team and found out that there were five to six workers in this mess where none of them were willing to buy a ceiling fan. The room was indeed very hot and suffocating. What we did was, we brought a ceiling fan and gave it to them.”

It does not take much to follow into the footsteps of what Babylon Group is demonstrating right now, but the benefits that come out of it is productivity, employee satisfaction and the most prized possession of all – excellent relationship between factory owners and workers.