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The Grocery Shop Project – our way of improving workers' livelihoods
SustainabilityFair remuneration is a subject that comes up a lot in our industry, and we’re often asked why we don’t simply pay workers more. But directly influencing specific wage levels in factories across South East Asia, including Bangladesh, is very challenging. Paying more for our t-shirts, doesn’t automatically mean that additional money goes to factory workers, rather than infrastructure, new machines or to the operating profit of the factory.
That’s why we are now supporting our partner factories to open subsidised grocery shops inside their factory walls. By providing some financing, we are supporting factories to offer essential goods such as rice, oil and lentils to their workers at heavily subsidized prices (up to 50% off).
Launch of the first grocery shop initiative at Meghna’s second location.
“We believe that the Grocery Shop Project is the best way of increasing worker spending power and improving livelihoods. Increasing the amount we pay per t-shirt does not necessarily translate to a direct wage increase for the factory workers, and often, when wages go up in an area, so do general costs like rent and food.” - Abdulla Al Rumi, Country Manager at Stanley/Stella Bangladesh Liaison Office
Wage levels and Bangladesh
Bangladesh is now considered a rising lower middle-income country thanks to innovation and ambitious economic plans. The textile industry is one of the most critical drivers of annual GDP growth and accounts for 80% of the total of Bangladesh exports, employing 4.4 million people, most of whom are women.
The last wage increase in Bangladesh was carried out in December 2018, increasing the minimum wage by over 40%. However, direct wage increases often come with a corresponding increase in the cost of living, as the price of food and rent inflates in the areas where factories are located.
As fair remuneration and improving worker livelihoods are part of our strategy, we work with a limited amount of factories – just 6 in total. All of them offer bonuses and benefits to workers that go beyond the legal minimum, such as free transportation, performance and attendance bonuses and increasing pay scales. 
When the Corona virus struck, our partner factories in Bangladesh were forced to shut down for more than a month, reducing workers’ income. We have stood firm in our commitment to them and have not cancelled any orders. Instead, we have launched our first grocery shop initiative.
“We are sticking by our workers, through this global pandemic. We are doing everything we can to contribute to an increase in their real income, which has become a major concern for many during these uncertain times” - Mr.Abdulla Al Rumi, Country Manager at Stanley/Stella Bangladesh Liaison Office
Stanley/Stella and the Grocery Shop Project
We started our first subsidised grocery shop project on the 12th of July 2020, at Interstoff, with the logistical support of Apon Wellbeing Ltd. Within 4 months, 4,370 workers (more than 90% of the factory workers) had received a heavily discounted package containing basic commodities such as rice, lentils and oil. It has created significant monetary savings for workers, especially during the pandemic, helping to increase their purchasing power and improve their overall standard of living. From a brand and factory perspective, it has proven to be an innovative initiative to ensure worker wellbeing.
Interstoff created a separate area in its grocery shop called ‘Stanley Stella Corner’.
Interstoff has also produced branded bags at their factory to give to their workers.
Meghna factory has now also embarked on the Grocery Shop Project, offering workers a 25 kg bag of rice at around 33% discount. And next year, Stanley/Stella will support shops initiatives in 4 of our other partner factories. As a small brand, we know that we can’t do everything, but we are aiming to achieve as much as we can.
We are constantly working on our social commitments. But we can’t do it all alone. Are you ready to help us? Get in touch!
Bruno Van Sieleghem