The ethical vigilance of practitioners holding procurement and supply chain jobs at international fashion retailer Esprit has resulted in the company taking decisive action to stop working with a garment factory in Southern Myanmar, following a UN report linking the latter with a conglomerate — Myanmar Economic Holdings — owned by the country’s military.

In a statement to the Nikkei Asian Review, the fashion brand said: “Esprit will be taking immediate action by stopping all future orders made to the Perfect Gains factory in Myanmar.”

The UN report was the outcome of a fact-finding mission to Myanmar, a regime whose military has been involved in the marginalisation, expulsion, and mistreatment of the country’s Rohingya Muslims.

The UN estimates that the country has deported over 700,000 of its Rohingyan citizens to Bangladesh, and is clear in its report that all foreign companies should assess any business they conduct in Myanmar to avoid connections with its brutal military.

The work of practitioners in supply chain and procurement jobs in the fashion retail industry, from permanent staff to procurement and supply chain interims, is critical to protecting brands from reputational damage caused by involvement with unethical suppliers.

It requires not only an oversight into the working conditions operating across the supply chain but also tracking the tiers of suppliers back to their ownership.

The aim is to avoid the appearance and the act of lending commercial support to regimes who violate human rights.

The fact-finding mission’s chair, Marzuki Darusman, highlighted the significance of Esprit’s prompt decision, explaining that companies implementing the report’s recommendations will erode the Myanmar military’s economic base, weaken its obstruction of the reform process, and damage its capacity to conduct persecutory military operations against minorities in defiance of international law.

Other companies named in the report for contracting with factories in the same location were H&M, Next, Bestseller, Marks & Spencer, and C&A. Procurement professionals in these will now be studying the report diligently.

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