Better Mill Initiative gains government support for expansion in Ethiopia

Due to the success of the Better Mill Initiative in Ethiopia last year, Solidaridad expanded the scope of the programme in 2017. Currently, Solidaridad works directly with 12 local textile factories on cleaner production and decent work. Solidaridad has the ambition to reach 74 factories by 2020 with direct technical support and indirect support such as peer-to-peer sessions, industry workshops and knowledge exchange sessions between factories. The Better Mill Initiative has received approval from the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian Textiles and Manufacturers Association, which is crucial for the programme’s success.

In 2016, Solidaridad started the Better Mill Initiative in Ethiopia to promote sustainable textile production. This initiative is inspired based on a successful project carried out by Solidaridad in China that sought to promote cleaner production and improved labour conditions in factories.

Collaboration drives sustainable growth

To ensure uptake of sustainable textiles from Ethiopia in the international market, Solidaridad Ethiopia works closely with Solidaridad Europe and CSR Netherlands (a centre of excellence for Dutch companies) to engage with Dutch and European brands and retailers.

Solidaridad Ethiopia provides the intelligence and technical support to factories that allows them to export products to European markets. By collaborating with a network of international partners, Solidaridad hopes to attract more buyers and retailers from the Netherlands and Europe to buy sustainable textiles from Ethiopia.

A look at the labour force

Due to the geographical size and huge population of young people in Ethiopia, the textile industry’s main ambition is to ensure that tens of thousands of people will have access to new jobs. However, many workers are migrants from rural areas and are not familiar with working in industries. Public-private partnerships are needed to address the low level of technical and teamwork skills of workers. Guaranteeing a safe work environment is also an important point, especially in the local industry.

Solidaridad also aims to address labour conditions of more than 17,000 workers through the Better Mill Initiative and has become a partner of the local private sector and the government of Ethiopia to address these issues.

New approaches for local businesses

A focus on workers and factories is not the only solution. To ensure that buyers also encourage correct sustainable practices from their suppliers, Solidaridad is planning to develop a Buyers Forum. The Buyers Forum aims to create a neutral space for pre-competitive collaboration between buyers in Ethiopia and more leverage for promoting corporate social responsibility in the region.

Opportunities for investment

Because the Ethiopian textile sector is a relatively young and small sector, there is an opportunity to ensure that sustainable production becomes the norm from the outset. Several international companies such as H&M, Tchibo and PVH have already started investing in textiles as a result of the recent establishment of industrial clusters by the Ethiopian government and incentives for foreign investors. More brands and retailers are expected to follow.

However, strong economic growth can also lead to uncontrolled growth. Solidaridad established the Better Mill Initiative in Ethiopia to provide expert support for ensuring sustainable economic growth in the country.

This initiative is made possible by the Dutch government and Sympany Foundation, a Dutch-based private foundation.

Learn more about Solidaridad programmes in East & Central Africa.