Five years ago, more than 1000 textile workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. Since then, safety in the production facilities has improved - in some cases. Because the requirements of the companies are still incomplete. Mostafiz Uddin, denim lover, activist and founder of the denim garment manufacturing and washing company Denim Expert Limited, passionately promotes and supports the apparel industry of Bangladesh with successful initiatives as the CEO of the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) or in 2014 with the Bangladesh Denim Expo, always with the aim to improve the living standards by creating jobs and business opportunities. Here, he gives his assessment about efforts and improvements within Bangladesh's apparel industry.
"It’s unfortunate that the tragic Rana Plaza accident happened in Bangladesh. The darkest calamity of Rana Plaza is that it put the apparel industry of Bangladesh under the global spotlight. As stated in Adam Smith’s doctrine, the laissez-faire policy at the initial stage expedited the growth of this country’s apparel industry from only US$12,000 exports in 1979 to becoming the world’s second largest ready-made garment (RMG) exporting country in 2010. The global spotlight from 2013 generated joint efforts from the government of Bangladesh, apparel manufacturers and buyers to turn around and significantly transform the industry. The difference of the apparel industry of Bangladesh between before and after Rana Plaza is like night and day. But unfortunately as the Rana Plaza accident seized the global media attention, the stories of transformation and development are not coming to the fore. However, the fact is that it will not be an exaggeration saying that at present Bangladesh produces apparel according to some of the safest working conditions of the world.
Around 83% of the identified safety issues have already been inspected by platforms of European and US brands, and by the national government, and fixed by the companies. Moreover, the inspection and remediation reports are posted in a publicly accessible website, making the changes transparent and credible. Additionally, the government of Bangladesh is working together with ILO and other stakeholders to set up a platform called Remediation Coordination Cell to oversee remediation and safety compliance.
The industry is also addressing environmental sustainability issues. Bangladesh now has 67 LEED certified green factories by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), of which 13 are platinum. Moreover, 280 more factories are in the pipeline for getting USGBC certification and many more are preparing for it.
Sustainability and innovation are the passwords to take Bangladesh's apparel industry to the next level. As the country has already made commendable strides in safety and sustainability, I think going forward, the the apparel industry of Bangladesh will lean towards innovation. The country has established itself as the second largest apparel sourcing hub, but still our apparel production is centered around doing basics. I believe in the coming years Bangladesh will produce more value added products which will be possible through innovation enhanced by sustainable production practices.
I have also been involved in this overall growth process personally as the founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE), the country’s lone private platform working to promote the apparel industry of Bangladesh. The BAE already launched the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) to help sustainability become easier to be practiced in the apparel sector. The first edition of SAF was held in May 2017 and its second edition will be organized in July 2018. We have organized the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit in February 2018 with the aim to make Bangladesh become a next-gen apparel manufacturing hub through innovation in the supply chain.
Our initiative Bangladesh Denim Expo has contributed significantly to redefine the role of Bangladesh in the global denim industry. I personally have also established and initiated a Denim Innovation Center to encourage innovation in the industry. Furthermore, I have understood the importance of branding the stories of development and transformation of the Bangladesh apparel industry; so I–personally and under the umbrella of BAE–am relentlessly trying to spread such advancement stories in Bangladesh and to the world."
Find out more about the topic in our new Sustainable ISSUE here.