British online fashion retailer Mallzee has launched a new venture named "Lost Stock" to help thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers who have been affected by order cancellations due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Lost Stock has teamed up with local NGO SAJIDA Foundation to disburse monetary support to ready-garment (RMG) workers.
Speaking to The Business Standard, SAJIDA Foundation Director Md Fazlul Haque said as per a memorandum of understanding (MoU), the British retailer will provide £15 for each RMG worker's family.
"We will make packages for them with some essential commodities and hygiene products," he said.
Citing Mallzee CEO Cally Russell, Fazlul Haque said they are planning to sell a box of apparel items worth £70 at the rate of £35 in UK. Of this, £15 will be donated to an RMG worker.
"Russell, with his two co-founders Callum Stuart and Jamie Sutherland, has agreed to work with the Sajida Foundation," he added.
Mallzee comes with this initiative at a time when most buyers have cancelled orders and denied receiving any goods from Bangladeshi apparel makers.
SAJIDA Foundation hopes to distribute the aid among RMG workers after Eid-ul-Fitr.
Muhymin Chowdhury, head of Challenge Fund and Fundraising for SAJIDA Foundation, said, "We are already distributing 60,000 food and hygiene packages among vulnerable families across the country."
These "gift boxes" include 10kg rice, 4kg potato, 2kg lentil, 1kg salt, 1 litre edible oil, 1kg sugar, and 4 bars of soap. The foundation says the package is enough to last a family of four 15 days.
SAJIDA Foundation has set up three portable handwashing devices in the Gazipur industrial area to aid workers in hygiene management, Fazlul further said.
They also plan to provide alternative trades to jobless RMG workers.
Muhymin said that by next week, they will be able to know how many orders Lost Stock receives from UK customers; their support also depends on that.
"When I read on the BBC News website that a factory owner said 'if coronavirus doesn't kill my workers, then starvation will,' instead of getting angry, I thought of doing something about this through the connections we have," Mallzee CEO Cally Russell told BBC.
"After using all our connections to speak to the Bangladeshi factories, we now have access to £20 million worth of clothes.
"We want to help 5,000 workers by the end of the month and 100,000 by the end of the year," Russell added. He hoped his new venture would stop the clothes from being sent to landfills.
Muhymin told BBC they are pleased to partner with Lost Stock, "whose approach helps redress the unfortunate failures of global brands to practise responsible sourcing."
"Additionally, Lost Stock purchases garment products at a fair price from Bangladeshi factories, helping support them in the long term," he added.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak hit Bangladeshi apparel export market, RMG factories have been flooded with cancellations, suspension of production, and halting of shipment.
Currently, 1,016 Bangladeshi garment factories have canceled and withheld orders worth about $2.97 billion, which was about $3.18 billion until mid-April, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
About 2.28 million workers employed in those factories have been affected, said BGMEA officials.
According to BGMEA and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BKMEA), 419 garment factories closed in the last two months.