Business Continuity Management: A Planned Approach to Protecting Livelihoods

May 22, 2020 | Dhaka, Bangladesh

Once projected to be among the fastest growing economies in the world, Bangladesh’s GDP is now projected to grow at merely 3.0% due to the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Further, due to more than 90% of its work force working in the informal economy and having limited access to formal financial services, Bangladesh does not have the luxury to keep its economy under lockdown for extended periods of time and has to face the grim reality of opening up its economy despite putting millions of lives at risk of becoming infected. COVID-19, therefore, is both an economic and a humanitarian crisis for Bangladesh.

Currently, Bangladesh’s readymade garments (RMG) industry employs over six million people, when accounting for the entire apparel manufacturing value chain. Further, each employee (on average) has three family members who are dependent on them, which means that over 24 million people are dependent on the RMG sector for their livelihoods. Hence, as Bangladesh begins to re-open its economy, the apparel manufacturers will need to consider how to effectively navigate the current economic crisis, while keeping their workforce safe and employed.

To address these challenges over the next 24 months, RMG organizations should engage in business continuity planning, a strategic process which requires an organization to reflect upon and take preemptive measures against both known and unknown operational risks. To manage the contagion of COVID-19 within an RMG organization, it is imperative to act in a swift and coordinated manner; otherwise, employees will get sick and lives may needlessly be lost.

That said, to many industry veterans, planning to control the spread of a highly infectious disease like COVID-19 within an apparel manufacturing organization may seem a nearly insurmountable task. To provide some perspective, a standard vertically integrated apparel manufacturing organization in Bangladesh (commonly referred to as a ‘composite’ factory) has at least 15 major divisions, and more than 60 sub-divisions, working across multiple physical sites.

To simplify the complexity and make the planning process more efficient, Industry Bangladesh has developed a proprietary document entitled the COVID-19 Response Plan Guideline & Risk Assessment, which offers the Bangladesh RMG leaders a standardized, industry-specific COVID-19 response plan and risk management solution. The framework has also been designed to allow management to reflect upon their overall business continuity challenges and determine how to resolve them holistically.

This document has been made publicly available as a sense of civic duty to help the nation’s vulnerable population, whose livelihoods have been so adversely affected by the economic impact of COVID-19. It is Industry Bangladesh’s intention that employers will be able to use this information to keep their workplaces safe and protect their employees from being further affected. After all, the best way to ensure a successful future for the Bangladesh RMG industry is to protect the most significant asset the industry (and the country) has – its employees.

Based on this document, the respective organizations should be able to:

  • Develop a business continuity plan to identify and address the risks associated with COVID-19
  • Establish a business continuity committee to map organizational risks at the departmental level and implement controls accordingly
  • Raise staff awareness on prevention measures to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission
  • Apply standard operating procedures (SOPs), based on global best practices, to improve current operating standards for:
    • Capacity Planning & Management related to Social Distancing
    • Environmental hygiene (particularly in high risk zones)
    • Preventive and emergency medical treatment for all employees
  • Use administrative tools to properly enforce control measures
  • Monitor the overall effectiveness of risk containment across all sites

Fahim Rahman | Industry Bangladesh