Connecting the Dots: Mapping the Bangladesh Garment Industry
This post was written in collaboration with Matt Fullerton.
During the weekend of October 18th-October 20th, a group of volunteers, data-wranglers, geo-coders, and activists teamed up with the International Labor Rights Forum and P2PU for a Data Expedition to investigate the Garment Factories. We set out to connect the dots between Bangladeshi garment producers and the clothes that you purchase from the shelves of the world’s largest retailers.
In previous endeavors, School of Data had examined the deadly history of incidents in garment factories in Bangladesh and the location of popular retailers’ clothing production facilities. This time around, we worked draw the connections between the retailers that sell our clothes, the factories that make it, the safety agreements they’ve signed, the safety of those buildings, and the workers who occupy them day and night.
The Importance of the Garment Industry In Bangladesh
Bangladesh, as many people are aware, is a major provider of garment manufacturing services and the industry is vital to Bangladesh’s economy, accounting for over 75% of the country’s exports and 17% of the country’s GDP. As in many developing countries, conditions can be harsh with long hours and unsafe working conditions. This project seeks to provide a resource which can then be used to drive accountability for these conditions and improve the lives and livelihood of average garment worker.
What’s Being Done
Many organisations and agreements already seek to promote the garment industry in Bangladesh and to ensure worker health and safety (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Safety Accord, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Fair Wear Foundation, The Solidarity Center). Collectively, these groups provide a range of data on Bangladeshi Garment factories: where they are located, safety incidents, and what retailers the factories supply. Our goal focused on connecting suppliers to sellers within the datasets, and geographically plotting the results on an interactive map. Ultimately, we seek to create a usable tool that is filterable on several criteria, specifically on membership to the various organisations and safety agreements which exist, the factory incident history, and the retailers that are being supplied by these factories. Styling of point radii would allow a quick overview of e.g. the number of workers and pop-up information could include additional data from the certification and auditing data including addresses, contact information, website addresses, incidents, and many more.
We made significant progress at the Data Expedition of October 20-21 as we:
- Geocoded the bulk of a list of over 2000 factories from the BGMEA using CartoDB and OpenRefine;
- Made data from the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety available as machine readable data;
- Consolidated the data we have into a central repository;
- And began prototyping some of the data into visual presentations
Keep Moving Forward
We however do not want to stop here. Rather, we see this as simply the beginning of a longer international collaborative project to make it possible for you to find out who created your clothing and under what conditions.
Get involved in the continued investigation of the garment factories by:
- joining this simple project management board on Trello where you can see what’s being done and where you can help out. The board is open to all, so please simply add your self.
- taking on some geocoding. Help us complete geocoding the list of factories, and help us work out an infrastructure for keeping it up to date.
- taking on another data wrangling task such as data cleaning or visualisation over on Trello.
- joining the Garment Factory Google Group.