LNDC pushes for WRAP certification

LNDC pushes for WRAP certification

MASERU – OUT of the 47 textile companies in Lesotho, only five have been certified by the global leader in social compliance, the World Responsible Accreditation Production (WRAP). Now the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Ministry of Trade wants to correct this. Last Thursday, the LNDC and Trade Ministry hosted a workshop to increase awareness and motivate textile companies to get accreditation. Speaking at the workshop, the LNDC’s Head of Investment Services Puseletso Makhakhe bemoaned the firms’ hesitancy to seek certification.

Makhakhe said the five firms have been awarded gold certificates, showing that they are socially compliant. The certification is valid for a year. The firms are Lesotho Precious Garments (Pty) Ltd, Eclat Evergood Textiles Manufacturers (Pty) Ltd, Ever Unison Garments Lesotho (Pty) Ltd, Tai-Yuan Garments (Pty) Ltd and Hippo Knitting (Pty) Ltd. In order to get a platinum certificate that is valid for three years the firms will have to be socially compliant for three consecutive years undergoing the tests each year.

WRAP is a not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing around the world through certification and education. The WRAP certification programme mainly focuses on the apparel, footwear and sewn products sectors. The WRAP Principles are based on generally accepted international workplace standards, local laws and workplace regulations which encompass human resources management, health and safety, environmental practices, and legal compliance including import/export and customs compliance and security standards.

Makhakhe said it is not clear why the firms are reluctant to get the certification when social compliance is a critical issue in the industry. “Perhaps their buyers have not requested that they get certified because in most cases buyers play a critical role in getting the firms to be certified in terms of social compliance,” Makhakhe said. “Some buyers have their own experts to check quality and social compliance issues and maybe they are still satisfied with going that route,” she said.

“If we want our country to be an ideal sourcing destination then we need to be certified by well-known institutions like WRAP.” The Deputy Director for the Ministry of Trade, Mpho Masupha, said firms should look at the social compliance certification as a necessity that will help them stay competitive beyond AGOA. “We are already working on an AGOA response strategy and to be WRAP certified is a critical aspect of the strategy,” Masupha said.

“It will help them to become competitive especially when we are competing with the likes of Bangladesh, Vietnam and China who take this social compliance seriously,” she said. She said there is the possibility of factory shells remaining empty post-AGOA because investors who failed to get certified would be moving to Bangladesh or Vietnam or China. Ntšebo Moreki, Head of Marketing for Johane Garments Manufacturing, said the workshop was enlightening for her firm as they “were not aware of a lot of components that make us socially compliant”.

Moreki said they are eager to get certified one day as “this will help us access international markets, consequently growing our business as currently our main clients are locals”. She said WRAP has provided a guideline on what to do in order to be socially compliant. On behalf of the LNDC CEO, ’Mamoiloa Raphuthing said the corporation also has a mandate to assist manufacturers to comply with the country’s policies with regard to employment environment, fair trade, following labour laws and regulations.

“In today’s world, brands require that their products are produced in humane, ethical, environmentally friendly and fair practices,” Raphuthing said. She said the social impact that the production or manufacturing of brands requires is immense and must be integrated into government policies. “AGOA has given developing countries a platform to compete in the world trade environment. Market access to this environment has very stringent requirements which do not only encourage good governance of the manufacturing sector but also require compliance,” she said.

WRAP’s representative, Clay Hickson, advised the firms to “look beyond costs associated with being socially compliant, look at getting certified as an investment in the future of your businesses”. He said buyers and consumers are no longer comfortable with buying goods produced under circumstances not deemed socially compliant. “Cathy Lee was one of the biggest teen jeans in the US but it came down due to issues of social compliance,” Hickson said.

He emphasized that in this day those who want to stay in business get a social compliance certification as a way of assuring their buyers and consumers that they do not harm the environment, produce clothes under harsh conditions that may involve slavery, child labour, abuse and unfair compensation.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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