Industrial compliance, workers' safety and adoption of latest technologies are essential to ensure sustainability for the apparel and clothing sector of Bangladesh, experts and policy markers have said. Promoting sustainability in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry will help to achieve the country's desired economic growth in the near future, they explained. Many issues including environment, workers wellbeing, responsible business conduct and climate change should be considered to make the country’s apparel industry sustainable, they added.
These observations were made at the second edition of Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) held at the International Convention City, Bashundhara in the capital Dhaka on Tuesday, November 5.
The Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) with support from the embassies of the Netherlands and Sweden, H&M, Better Work Bangladesh and C&A Foundation organized the daylong event aiming to make the apparel and clothing industry of Bangladesh sustainable. At the program, western retailers including H&M put emphasis on sustainability practices in water consumption and labor issues, saying that they would opt for long-term sourcing of apparel items from Bangladesh in increased volumes provided there is sustainability in production there.
“Bangladesh’s garment industry is not just important for Bangladesh but it is important for whole global textile industry,” Pierre Borjesson, head of sustainability- global production of H&M group, said while addressing at the opening session of the program. Borjesson said Bangladeshi ready-made garment sector is the wonder of success and it shows how the industry can ensure betterment of the people: “We need to continue the progress and keep in mind that workers are the key force of the success.”
Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Préfontaine said social dialogue is needed about the price of apparel items, the supply chain and workplace culture. On the other hand, local apparel entrepreneurs sought more financing at competitive rates to make the industry socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. The garments sector should be transformed with technologies linked to fourth industrial revolution (4IR) to make the business sustainable by strengthening its position in the global competition, they added.
“In terms of economic sustainability, we are unusually silent despite being agreed to the fact that making a factory safe for working, making it socially and environmentally complaint, huge investment is needed,” Atiqul Islam, mayor of the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), said while addressing as the chief guest at the opening session. Also a former president of the BGMEA, he added that entrepreneurs are hardly getting financing to do so at a competitive cost. Bangladesh needs more investment in the manufacturing industries to progress in line with the technologies of 4IR, the former BGMEA chief explained.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Shahriar Alam urged global brands to deliver on their commitments within the evolving global RMG supply chain, saying their due response is “crucial” for making the entire industry and the supply chains “compliant-competitive-caring.” The global brands also require delivering on their commitments at a similar pace, the state minister said, adding that manufacturing is a collective enterprise and is about shared responsibility.
In all, more than 50 speakers from 20 countries in five panel discussions of the SAF shared their perspectives on issues critical to sustainability such as humanity, transparency, water, purchasing practice and climate change.
With the discussions of the SAF a so-called sustainability roadmap is going to be formulated, the organizers said. “The ‘sustainability roadmap’ will provide clear guidelines to the industry to add pace to the sustainability movement,” said Mostafiz Uddin, founder and CEO of the BAE. The progresses of the roadmap will also be followed up in next editions of the SAF, he added.
A total of eight institutional papers related to the sustainability of Bangladesh apparel industry were also presented at the SAF.