We are about to conclude an eventful year 2023. Challenged with global and local challenges caused by the Russia-Ukraine war in 2022, we hoped that 2023 would bring fresh air. Indeed 2023 appeared to be more challenging as the global conflicts rather broadened, and economic challenges got new dimensions affecting the retail market, trade and manufacturing. Yet, for us as an industry, 2023 was a year of both challenges and accomplishments.
As I mentioned the global economy and trade was confronted with supply chain disruption, inflation and so many adversities; the advanced economies followed a contractionary monetary policy to control inflation, which made businesses more difficult. Excess inventory, less consumption and less demand impacted the price level. Altogether, the global clothing trade in 2023 has so far been not as good as 2022. It was never a smooth line, there has always been peaks and troughs in the trend. As we are going to start a new year, the encouraging sign for us is that the retail sales in the year end saw record turnover indicating a possible rebound in retail sales. The U.S. holiday spending (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Super Saturday) this year becomes true as the U.S. Census Bureau publishes the November updates of the retail sales report. Even the number of shoppers in the U.K. on Boxing Day saw an increase of 8.8. This turnaround brings the hope for a better year ahead.
Leaving all the challenges in the rear-view, the indomitable spirit of the entrepreneurs and the spirit of partnership will be crucial for sustainable growth. The present Board of BGMEA extends our deepest gratitude and thanks to all our colleagues, buyers, associates and patrons for the unparalleled support which has enabled us to fetch these accomplishments. Especially, I extend my sincere gratitude to the brands, retailers and their representatives for their confidence and commitment toward Bangladesh. I believe the spirit of partnership will be continued in future.
The RMG industry in Bangladesh, once being questioned for its workplace safety standards, has emerged as a role model for its workplace safety standard and cleaner manufacturing. In fact, the global fashion industry accounts for 10% carbon emission globally, urging significant global attention to become more responsive toward climate. Bangladesh being one of the least per capita carbon emitting countries has made a remarkable move as far as its industrialization and economic vision are concerned. Despite all the hurdles the industry is passing through (especially in the past few years caused by the pandemic, global conflicts causing inflation, and now impacting the retail industries and consumer spending), in 2022, a number of 30 RMG factories were added to the LEED list (15 Platinum and 15 Gold). This year so far, 24 RMG factories achieved the LEED status, of which 16 are Platinum and 8 Gold. More importantly, the highest LEED scoring factory with 104 points was located in Bangladesh and broke our own record in this year as another Bangladeshi garment factory now scored 106 points and positioned itself as the highest rated LEED certified factory in the world. In the last 5 years a number of 129 factories were certified by USGBC as LEED green manufacturing facilities. Such a marathon in revolutionizing green industrialization, is a testament to our uncompromised stance toward sustainability. Today we have 206 LEED certified factories of which are 76 Platinum rated and 116 achieving Gold status. Now 21 out of globally top 23 LEED certified factories are proudly bearing the flag of our nation.
Along with sustainability, factories are now investing in new technologies, skills and product development, value addition, efficiency, enhancement etc. Apart from that, the investment in backward linkage industry is increasing, especially in fabrics, accessories, product diversification and innovation. Given all these efforts and progress, we are aiming for more trade and investments in coming years, and we need to find ways to maximize the utilization of all these opportunities.
As we are pursuing sustainability in manufacturing, with great enthusiasm let me share with you that when me and my Board took the responsibility of BGMEA in 2021, I made a humble start of gifting living plants (sapling) instead of flower bouquet to visitors, delegates, and stakeholders at BGMEA. This seemingly simple shift held profound symbolism, silently echoing the organization’s commitment to sustainability. Each sapling, cradled in a delegate’s hands, wasn’t just a token of appreciation; it was a promise for a greener future. I had the honor to deliver a sapling to Dr. Michael Klode, Project Manager at GIZ Dhaka, who in October 2021 received this from me. He carried it with him to Germany, entrusting it to his daughter’s care. Two years later, a heartwarming picture arrived: the same sapling, now thriving in full bloom.
This living testament, nurtured across continents, embodies the enduring impact of our commitment to sustainability. It transcended borders and languages, whispering a silent promise to nurture not just economic prosperity, but a planet teeming with life. With each gifted plant, BGMEA sows the seeds of a sustainable future, reminding everyone involved in the fashion industry of their shared responsibility towards our fragile climate. Our gesture carries a delicate message of prosperity and sustainability, one that will continue to flourish for generations to come.
With this hope and aspirations, I wish you all a very happy new year 2024. I hope the new year will bring you better health and more prosperity. As the countdown toward 2024 starts, I wish this could be the countdown toward end of all wars and conflicts around the world.