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Ensuring a sustainable business environment is now of the major priorities of today’s fashion world

BGMEA President, Faruque Hassan, delivered a valuable speech on environmental and social sustainability at the 4th edition of the Sustainable Apparel Forum.

BGMEA President Faruque Hassan at apparel forum

As far as the sustainability is concerned, it sits at the top of our agenda in BGMEA and in the sector at large. And our strides towards sustainability, particularly, the environmental and social sustainability in past decades testify to this fact.

We have ensured 100% safety in terms of fire, structural and electrical remediation within the workplace which has restored global confidence in us. We have taken a number of initiatives to ensure the better well-being of our workers.

While safety at work and well-being is a supreme considerations for us, we are working to ensure their education. Around 100 female workers from this industry enrolled in Asian University of Women with the support of their respective factories. We have plans to increase this number to 500 within the next few years.

We haven’t only limited ourselves within the social territory, but also have taken further steps to make the industry greener and cleaner which proves our commitment and dedication toward a more resilient, sustainable, and better industry. We have now the highest number of LEED green factories certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) which is 192. Also, 53 out of 100 world’s top green garment factories are situated in Bangladesh. More 550 factories are in the pipeline for getting certifications. And for the first time ever for any association, BGMEA won the USGBC Leadership prize in 2021 as well.

As the apex association of the garment industry in Bangladesh, BGMEA has realigned its vision with ESG priorities. To expedite the green revolution, we have taken a series of initiatives under its sustainability vision 2030.

From the inception of the garment industry in Bangladesh in early 80s, the business has followed a linear model of cradle to grave. The current trajectory needs to change if we want to create a sustainable future, and one of the key strategies to do so is through resource decoupling. The circular economy can build a pathway for greater environmental sustainability coupled with economic growth. The concept of a Circular promotes a regenerative, restorative, and sustainable economic model.

While we move towards a circular economy, the skills and efficiencies of our industries have to continue to improve, to be competitive in the global marketplace. Since this is relatively a new topic, not much is known about it yet. We need to raise awareness amongst ourselves regarding this topic, which will eventually help us to understand the global value chain and develop market-based solutions for promoting of sustainable production and consumption.

With the support of DANIDA and some other international partners, we have taken a 5 year long research project titled “CREATE”. This objective of this project is to investigate the Circular Economy transition in global garment value chains related to Bangladesh’s apparel industry and propose appropriate regulations.

Ensuring a sustainable business environment is now one of the major priorities of today’s fashion world. In past few years, a number of due diligences have come up. Particularly, the EU is going to adopt a new due diligence guideline which push forward with rules on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence.

Yes, regulation is necessary but we don’t want to duplicate the approach. We don’t want country-specific or trading block-specific legislation, we want such legislation which is accepted by all the players in the global fashion industry. So basically we want convergence in due-diligence of different countries. We want level playing field across the supply chain.

At the same time, the fashion industry needs to agree on a globally standardized approach to purchasing practices and due diligence, otherwise it will become too difficult for the suppliers to comply with thousand different structures. The policy makers in both suppliers and consumer side should encourage more socially inclusive business approaches through policy and other supports to smoothen the path towards responsible business.

Since new due diligence are coming, we need to build our capacity to comply with those. While we talk about responsible business and sustainable trade, it should not be confined within the manufacturer’s level. Because manufacturers are a part of the supply chain and very individuals within the supply chain has their own roles and responsibility. So a handholding approach is needed to ensure sustainable business environment and all the due diligence within the supply chain.

The core mantra of sustainability is “ No one living behind”. Our commitment is to take the RMG industry to the next level of sustainability and we are looking comprehensively to all the possible areas of concerns. As we are preparing for the next growth phase of our industry, we need to create a resilient business model where all the risk, plans and innovation will be shared. Because in past two years during Covid, one thing we better learned which is the importance of a resilient supply chain. So we need to put emphasize on build up a resilient and sustainable business model to overcome the future challenges.   

For that, we need more supports from the advanced economy in terms of product and fiber diversification, innovation, technological upgradation, reskilling and up skilling our people. You may know that we have established BGMEA Centre of innovation, efficiency and OSH. The Centre will works as an exchange hub of industry wide best practices as it endeavors to disseminate knowledge to beneficiary groups continuously in the area of product development, efficiency, use of technologies, process upgradation, environmental sustainability and social innovation.

We need assistance from all of our esteemed stakeholder to make this center more vibrant and useful. So please come forward, collaborate, and exchange knowledge and expertise to ensure more decent employments, and build a resilient and sustainable fashion industry.

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