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Myanmar making slow headway on compliance issues

Clothing companies from developed countries who implement international ethical standards when investing in Myanmar will be competing with Asian companies who ignore such norms. The OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) guidelines for multinational enterprises, which includes responsible business conduct, could promote responsible investment in the counrtry.

However, the Burmese government is unlikely to insist on OECD standards being used by companies from non-OECD countries working there. For instance Chinese or Thai companies can’t be  made to abide by OECD standards. Major Myanmar investors China and Thailand are not OECD members.

Traditionally, social responsibility has not been a part of business activities in Myanmar. Challenges for investors in Myanmar include the need for improved transportation infrastructure  and the complex process of clearing land and property rights. Companies have struggled to set up a supply chain in the country. There is a gap between what international companies want and what local producers are able to offer, in part because of the extra cost to meet these standards. So some firms have taken it upon themselves to work with human rights groups and local organisations to train local suppliers about responsible business conduct. Myanmar is in fact keen to adopt higher standards and attract foreign investment.