Social business as CSR: a study on Grameen UNIQLO
AuthorTeresa, Saima Sultana
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The Retail Apparel sector is an extremely competitive and flourishing sector all around the globe. Companies and Brands of this sector are constantly fighting with each other over the highest quality products at the lowest possible price. And Bangladesh has made a name for itself providing just that – high quality apparel at astoundingly low prices. It is currently the 2nd largest apparel exporter in the world after China. Despite many unsavory events that have mired the RMG sector of the country, Bangladesh still remains the location of choice for many international brands for sourcing of their products. Low labor costs, high product quality, adequate capacity are the prime factors behind the country’s success in this sector. Among the many globally renowned brands that source from Bangladesh, the Japanese retail clothing giant, UNIQLO, is relatively new here. Starting its operations in 2008, it has rapidly expanded its operations and is currently sourcing about USD 200 million worth of products each year from Bangladesh. UNIQLO is the flagship brand of the Fast Retailing Group, which is the 4th largest apparel company in the world. UNIQLO’s growth has been phenomenal and it aims to be the world’s no. 1 brand by 2023. The clothing retailer follows the “SPA” strategy, which stands for Specialty retailer of Private label Apparel. It means that the company designs are produces its own products through suppliers it does not own for sale in its own stores. UNIQLO sets itself apart from other retailers by its ethical and sound business practices. It believes in having only a few production partners but having a strong relationship with them. It ensures that the products are of the highest quality possible whilst maintaining a sound working environment. UNIQLO is also known for its strong sense of corporate social responsibility, which is reflected in its unique CSR programs all around the world. Grameen UNIQLO is one of those unique CSR programs. It is a social business venture run in association with Grameen Healthcare Trust, with the aim of improving the lives of underprivileged people by providing them with employment and solving social problems such as illiteracy and poor sanitation. Since its inception in 2010, it has come a long way and now it is opening stores of its own brand name in Dhaka. Grameen UNIQLO aims to have a nationwide chain of such stores and hopes to replicate this business model in other developing nations. UNIQLO is a pioneer in arena of starting a social business as a CSR activity. Many companies end up doing corporate philanthropy in the name of CSR. Through Grameen UNIQLO, the company has showed what a proper CSR activity should be like. It has showed how a social business venture can positively affect the lives of people and change society for the better. Today, Grameen UNIQLO stands as a beacon of success as both a social business and a CSR program. It is not simply a goodwill program of a foreign company, it is a testament to the ingenuity, resilience and diligence of the people of Bangladesh and one day it will take Bangladesh’s name to a new height around the world.