A Governance Deficit in the Apparel Industry in Bangladesh: Solutions to the Impasse?

  • Mohammad Tarikul IslamEmail author
  • Amira Khattak
  • Christina Stringer


The rapid growth of Bangladesh’s apparel industry has been facilitated by the emergence of global value chains (GVCs) connecting local suppliers with global buyers. The growth of the industry, however, has occurred without the parallel development of supportive institutions, resulting in a governance deficit highlighted, in part, by ongoing disasters in which workers have been killed or injured. Building on the GVC governance literature, this chapter discusses the need for public, private and social governance actors to work together to address the governance deficit in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse. The chapter highlights the limitations inherent if one form of governance seeks to tackle problems in the industry and concludes that a mix of the three types of governance is needed.


Global value chains (GVCs) Bangladesh Apparel industry Institutions Governance deficit Public, private and social governance 


  1. Achabou, Mohamed Akli, Sihem Dekhili, and Mohamed Hamdoun. 2017. Environmental Upgrading of Developing Country Firms in Global Value Chains. Business Strategy and the Environment. 26 (2): 224–238.Google Scholar
  2. Al-Mahmood, Syed Zain. 2013. Deadly Fire Hits Bangladesh Factory. The Wall Street Journal, October 8. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  3. Al-Mahmood, Syed Zain, and Jason Burke. 2013. Bangladesh Factory Fire Puts Renewed Pressure on Clothing Firms. The Guardian, May 10. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  4. Anner, Mark, Jennifer Bair, and Jeremy Blasi. 2013. Toward Joint Liability in Global Supply Chains: Addressing the Root Causes of Labor Violations in International Subcontracting Networks. Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal 35 (1): 1–43.Google Scholar
  5. Aoki, Masahiko. 2001. Toward a Comparative Institutional Analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Appelbaum, Richard P. 2004. Fighting Sweatshops: Problems of Enforcing Global Labour Standards. In Richard P. Appelbaum and W.I. Robinson (Eds.). Critical Globalization Studies. 369–378. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2008. Giant Transnational Contractors in East Asia: Emergent Trends in Global Supply Chains. Competition & Change 12 (1): 69–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Appelbaum, Richard, P. Edna Bonacich, and Katie Quan. 2005. The End of Apparel Quotas: A Faster Race to the Bottom? Center for Global Studies, Working Paper. Santa Barbara: University of California.Google Scholar
  9. Bair, Jennifer. 2008. Surveying the Post-MFA Landscape: What Prospects for the Global South Post-quota? Competition & Change 12 (1): 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bair, Jennifer, and Florence Palpacuer. 2015. CSR beyond the Corporation: Contested Governance in Global Value Chains. Global Networks 15 (s1): S1–S19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Barrientos, Stephanie, Frederick Mayer, John Pickles, and Anne Posthuma. 2011. Decent Work in Global Production Networks: Framing the Policy Debate. International Labour Review 150 (3–4): 297–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005. Bangladesh Factory Bodies Found. April 18. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  13. Berik, Günseli, and Yana van der Meulen Rodgers. 2010. Options for Enforcing Labour Standards: Lessons from Bangladesh and Cambodia. Journal of International Development 22 (1): 56–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. BGMEA (Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association). 2014a. Envoys Satisfied Over Post Rana Plaza Initiatives. Accessed July 21, 2014.
  15. BGMEA. 2014b. Reinventing the Apparel Model the Race to Responsible and Productivity Enhancement. Accessed July 23, 2014.
  16. ———. 2016a. BGMEA: At a Glance. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  17. ———. 2016b. Trade Information. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  18. BHRRC (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre). 2012. Lawsuit Against Tazreen Fashions (Re Factory Fire in Bangladesh). Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Accessed April 15, 2016.
  19. Boiral, Olivier. 2007. Corporate Greening through ISO 14001: Arational Myth? Organization Science 18 (1): 127–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Burke, Jason, and Saad Hammadi. 2012. Bangladesh Textile Factory Fire Leaves More than 100 Dead. The Guardian, November 26. Accessed May 15, 2016.
  21. CCC (Clean Clothes Campaign). 2006. Three Tragedies Hit Bangladesh Factories in One Week, Leaving Scores Dead, Wounded. February 2. Accessed April 15, 2016.
  22. CCC. 2010. Garib Fire Survivors Call for Justice and a Safe Industry. March 3. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  23. ———. 2011. April 11: 6th Anniversary of the Spectrum Collapse. April 11. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  24. ———. 2015. Evaluation of H&M Compliance with Safety Action Plans for Strategic Suppliers in Bangladesh. Clean Clothes Campaign, September 15. Accessed October 12, 2015.
  25. ———. 2016. Initial Statement Regarding Fire at Matrix Sweaters Factory. February 2. Accessed April 26, 2016.
  26. Curran, Louise, and Khalid Nadvi. 2015. Shifting Trade Preferences and Value Chain Impacts in the Bangladesh Textiles and Garment Industry. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 8 (3): 459–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. D’Souza, Ritika. 2016. Setting the Stage. In G. Lopez-Acevedo and R. Robertson (Eds.). Stitches to Riches? Apparel Employment, Trade and Economic Development in South Asia. 39–76. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  28. Ellram, Lisa M., Wendy L. Tate, and Kenneth J. Petersen. 2013. Offshoring and Reshoring: An Update on the Manufacturing Location Decision. Journal of Supply Chain Management 49 (2): 14–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Foxvog, Liana, Judy Gearhart, Shamantha Maher, Liz Parker, Ben Vanpeperstraete, and Inke Zeldenrust. 2013. Still Waiting Six Months after History’s Deadliest Apparel Industry Disaster, Workers Continue to Fight for Compensation. Clean Clothes Campaign, October 4. Accessed May 22, 2016.
  30. Frederick, Stacey. 2016. Benchmarking South Asia in the Global Apparel Industry. In G. Lopez-Acevedo and R. Robertson (Eds.). Stitches to Riches? Apparel Employment, Trade and Economic Development in South Asia. 39–76. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  31. Frederick, Stacey, and Cornelia Staritz. 2012. Developments in the Global Apparel Industry after the MFA Phaseout. In Sewing Success? Employment, Wages and Poverty following the End of the Multi-fibre Arrangement, ed. G. Lopez-Acevedo and R. Robertson, 41–86. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  32. Gereffi, Gary. 2005a. The Global Economy: Organization, Governance, and Development. In N. J. Smelser and R. Swedberg (Eds.). The Handbook of Economic Sociology. 173–195. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  33. ———. 2005b. Public and Private Governance: Are We at a Turning Point? International Labour Organization 7th Nobel Peace Prize Lectures, Lecture 3, Kingston, Jamaica.Google Scholar
  34. ———. 2014. Global Value Chains in a Post-Washington Consensus world. Review of International Political Economy 21 (1): 9–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gereffi, Gary, Penny Bamber, and Karina Fernandez-Stark. 2016. Promoting Decent Work in Global Supply Chains in Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues, Good Practices, Lessons Learned and Policy Insights. Geneva: International Labour Organization.Google Scholar
  36. Gereffi, Gary, and Michelle Christian. 2009. The Impacts of Wal-Mart: The Rise and Consequences of the World’s Dominant Retailer. Annual Review of Sociology 35: 573–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gereffi, Gary, and Joonkoo Lee. 2016. Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Value Chains and Industrial Clusters: Why Governance Matters. Journal of Business Ethics 133 (1): 25–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gereffi, Gary, and Frederick Mayer. 2004. The Demand for Global Governance. Terry Stanford Institute of Public Policy, Working Paper No. SAN04-02.Google Scholar
  39. ———. 2006. Globalization and the Demand for Governance. In G. Gereffi (Ed.). The New Offshoring of Jobs and Global Development. 39–65. Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  40. Gibbon, Peter. 2008. Governance, Entry Barriers, Upgrading: A Re-interpretation of Some GVC Concepts from the Experience of African Clothing Exports. Competition & Change 12 (1): 29–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gibbon, Peter, Jennifer Bair, and Stefano Ponte. 2008. Governing Global Value Chains: An Introduction. Economy and Society 37 (3): 315–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gibbon, Peter, and Stefano Ponte. 2005. Trading Down: Africa, Value Chains, and the Global Economy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Hossain, Emran, and David Bergman. 2010. Faulty Probe Leads to Impunity for KTS Directors. The Daily Star, March 1. Accessed January 15, 2016.
  44. HRW (Human Rights Watch). 2014. Bangladesh: Rana Plaza Victims Urgently Need Assistance. Accessed August 25, 2016.
  45. HRW. 2015. Whoever Rises Their Head Suffers the Most. Accessed October 15, 2015.
  46. Humphrey, John, and Hubert Schmitz. 2002. How Does Insertion in Global Value Chains Affect Upgrading in Industrial Clusters? Regional Studies: The Journal of the Regional Studies Association 36: 1017–1027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. ILO (International Labour Organization). 2013. Bangladesh: Seeking Better Employment Conditions for Better Socioeconomic Outcomes. Accessed June 24, 2015.
  48. ———. 2015a. Rana Plaza Victims’ Compensation Scheme Secures Funds Needed to Make Final Payments. Accessed November 15, 2015.
  49. IndustriALL. 2015. Industry Bargaining for Living Wages. Accessed August 18, 2015.
  50. Jun, Wang. 2014. Technology Spillovers in the Multinational Outsourcing System and Technological Innovation in Recipient Countries. Social Sciences in China 35 (2): 44–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Keohane, R. Owen. 2002. Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Khan, Mohd Raisul Islam, and Christa Wichterich. 2015. Safety and Labour Conditions: The Accord and The National Tripartite Plan of Action for the Garment Industry of Bangladesh. Geneva: International Labour Organization.Google Scholar
  53. Khattak, Amira, and Christina Stringer. 2016. The Role of Suppliers in the Greening of GVCs: Evidence from the Sri Lankan Apparel Industry. In M. Mustafa Erdoğdu, Thankom Arun, and Imran Habib Ahmad (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Green Economic Development Initiatives and Strategies. 539–559. Hershey: IGI Global.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Khattak, Amira, Christina Stringer, Maureen Benson-Rea, and Nigel Haworth. 2015. Environmental Upgrading of Apparel Firms in Global Value Chains: Evidence from Sri Lanka. Competition and Change 19 (4): 317–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kotikula, Aphichoke, Milad Pournik, and Raymond Robertson. 2015. Interwoven: How the Better Work Program Improves Job and Life Quality in the Apparel Sector. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  56. Kurpad, Meenakshi R. 2014. Made in Bangladesh: Challenges to the Ready-made Garment Industry. Journal of International Trade Law and Policy 13 (1): 80–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lan, Tu, and John Pickles. 2011. China’s New Labour Contract Law: State Regulation and Worker Rights in Global Production Networks. Capturing the Gains, Manchester, UK.Google Scholar
  58. Lee, Joonkoo. 2016. Global Supply Chain Dynamics and Labour Governance: Implications for Social Upgrading. ILO Research Paper 14.Google Scholar
  59. Locke, Richard M. 2013. The Promise and Limits of Private Power: Promoting Labour Standards in a Global Economy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lu, Sheng. 2016. Minimum Wage in the Apparel Industry Continues to Rise in Most Asian Countries in 2016. Accessed August 23, 2016. ILO, Working Paper 5.
  61. Luckerson, Victor. 2013. Bangladesh Factory Collapse: Is There Blood on Your Shirt? Business Time. Accessed April 29, 2016.
  62. Manik, Julfikar Ali, and Vikas Bajaj. 2012. Killing of Bangladeshi Labour Organizer Signals an Escalation in Violence. The New York Times, April 9. Accessed March 15, 2015.
  63. ———. 2010. Regulation and Economic Globalization: Prospects and Limits of Private Governance. Business and Politics 12 (3): Article 11.Google Scholar
  64. Mayer, Frederick, and John Pickles. 2014. Re-embedding the Market: Global Apparel Value Chains, Governance and Decent Work. In A. Rossi, A. Luinstra, and J. Pickles (Eds.). Towards Better Work. 17–39. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Moazzem, K. Golam, Saifa Raz, Doug Miller, Claudia Schlangen, and Irina Van Der Sluijis. 2013. Estimating a Living Minimum Wage for the Ready-made Garment Sector in Bangladesh. Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Bangladesh. Accessed March 25, 2016.
  66. Nadvi, Khalid. 2008. Global Standards, Global Governance and the Organization of Global Value Chains. Journal of Economic Geography 8 (3): 323–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Palpacuer, Florence, Peter Gibbon, and Lotte Thomsen. 2005. New Challenges for Developing Country Suppliers in Global Clothing Chains: A Comparative European Perspective. World Development 33 (3): 409–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Paul, Ruma. 2016. Bangladesh Charges 38 with Murder Over 2013 Garment Factory Collapse. Reuters, July 18. Accessed August 22, 2016.
  69. Poulsen, René Taudal, Stefano Ponte, and Jane Lister. 2016. Buyer-driven Greening? Cargo-owners and Environmental Upgrading in Maritime Shipping. Geoforum 68: 57–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Quddus, Munir, and Salim Rashid. 2000. Entrepreneurs and Economic Development: The Remarkable Story of Garment Exports from Bangladesh. Dhaka: The University Press Limited.Google Scholar
  71. Rana Plaza Arrangement. 2015. June 8. Accessed August 23, 2016.
  72. Rana, Mohammad Bakhtiar, and Olav Jull Sørensen. 2013. Exploring Management and Entrepreneurial Factors in the Internationalisation of SMEs: Evidence from the Bangladeshi Apparel Industry. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business 19 (4): 517–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rossi, Arianna, Amy Luinstra, and John Pickles. 2014. Introduction. In A. Rossi, A. Luinstra, and J. Pickles (Eds.). Towards Better Work: Understanding Labour in Apparel Global Value Chains. 1–14. Geneva: International Labour Organization and Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  74. Sattar, Zaidi. 2006. Bangladesh end of MFA Quotas: Key Issues and Strategic Options for Bangladesh Readymade Garment Industry. The World Bank, Report No. 34964-BD, January 18. Accessed August 25, 2016.
  75. Skeers, Jake. 2006. Bangladesh: 54 Workers Killed in Textile Factory Fire. World Socialist Website, March 2. Accessed April 18, 2015.
  76. Sturgeon, Timothy J. 2008. From Commodity Chains to Value Chains: Interdisciplinary Theory Building in an Age of Globalization. In J. Bair. (Ed.). Frontiers of Commodity Chain Research. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Taplin, Ian M. 2014. Who is to Blame? A Re-examination of Fast Fashion after the 2013 Factory Disaster in Bangladesh. Critical Perspectives on International Business 10: 72–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tickell, Adam, and Jamie Peck. 2003. Making Global Rules: Globalisation or Neoliberalisation. In Remaking The Global Economy: Economic-Geographical Perspectives, ed. J. Peck and H.W.-C. Yeung, 163–182. London: SAGE Publication Ltd.Google Scholar
  79. Tighe, Eleanor. 2016. Voluntary Governance in Clothing Production Networks: Management Perspectives on Multi-stakeholder Initiatives in Dhaka. Environment and Planning A. 48 (12): 2504–2524.Google Scholar
  80. Van Klaveren, M. 2016. Wages in Context in the Garment Industry in Asia. Amsterdam: Wage Indicator Foundation. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  81. Westervelt, Amy. 2015. Two Years after Rana Plaza, have Conditions Improved in Bangladesh’s factories? The Guardian, April 25. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  82. World Bank. 2016. Population Total. Accessed August 18, 2016.
  83. WTO. 2014. Statistics: International Trade Statistics 2014 Merchandise Trade. Accessed August 25, 2016.
  84. Yunus, Mohammad, and Tatsufumi Yamagata. 2014. Bangladesh: Market Force Supersedes Control. In T. Fukunishi and T. Yamagata (Eds.). The Garment Industry in Low-Income Countries: An Entry Point of Industrialization. 77–104. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad Tarikul Islam
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amira Khattak
    • 2
  • Christina Stringer
    • 3
  1. 1.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.Prince Sultan UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.The University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations