BFC launched its project in 2001 as a direct result of a trade agreement between Cambodia and the U.S. which provided Cambodia better access to the U.S. market in exchange for improved working conditions. With an original team of 14 staff members and an initial focus only on monitoring, BFC eventually became a model for similar programs around the world, including the ILO’s Better Work program.
As Cambodia’s garment industry continues to grow, so do we. Today, we operate three core programs—monitoring, training and advisory services—with a team of 30 staff members who work tirelessly toward our mission of improving the lives of Cambodian people.
BFC’s 11-year history is marked by leadership, adaptability and a relentless drive to ensure factories are held accountable to international labor standards.
Responding to consumer concerns about garments being produced in factories that exploit workers, the U.S. promises Cambodia increased quotas in exchange for decent working conditions. Under the U.S.-Cambodia Bilateral Textile Trade Agreement, factories must agree to routine monitoring. The Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) project is established to fill the role as independent, neutral monitor.
A training component is added to the project to accelerate progress toward improving factory conditions. The program helps managers and workers build skills to adopt a collaborative approach to resolving conflict on the factory floor. The International Labour Organization helps to establish the Labour Dispute Resolution Project (LDRP), the precursor to the Arbitration Council Foundation, to settle more complicated workplace conflict. Cambodia joins the World Trade Organization.
BFC launches an improved Information Management System that streamlines reporting on factory assessments through an electronic database that collects, stores and analyzes data. BFC launches its first worker-focused training by developing a fun, engaging and highly-rated soap opera series that helps workers better understand their rights and responsibilities.
BFC’s efforts in empowering workers and highlighting their creativity and skills results in collaboration with industry stakeholders to implement the first “I am Precious” campaign. The initiative includes a fashion and song-writing contest, and highlights the values of workers and their contributions to the development of the Cambodian apparel industry. BFC turns its attention to equipping supervisors with the tools to strike a balance between respecting workers’ rights and meeting company objectives. The Supervisory Skills Training (SST) program is launched and continues from 2007 to 2009 with a goal to train 2500 supervisors including Cambodian, Chinese and other foreigner supervisors.
BFC launches its Advisory Services program, providing a tailored approach to helping factories improve performance by providing practical tools and focused guidance to help factories make meaningful change. BFC’s program spawns the ILO’s Better Work program, which operates in Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nicaragua and Vietnam.
Union Confederations and the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia (GMAC) sign a groundbreaking bilateral agreement to foster better industrial relations, including binding arbitration by the Arbitration Council for rights disputes.
BFC brings labor law education to 2,000 workers through the Garment Workers Open University and to 2,000 supervisors through the Supervisors College program.
In 2012 BFC responded to the needs of a rapidly growing footwear industry by launching a footwear factory monitoring and air testing program.