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Third Sustainable Apparel Forum focuses on engagement and collaboration

By Simone Preuss


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Image: speakers at the opening plenary session: Anne van Leeuwen, Faruque Hassan, Md. Atiqul Islam, Mostafiz Uddin, Stephanie Thiers-Radcliffe and Md. Mohiuddin Rubel (from left to right) / SAF

For the third time, policy makers, industry leaders, brand representatives and fashion campaigners from Bangladesh and abroad gathered in Dhaka to accelerate the momentum for achieving more sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry.

More than 50 speakers and 20 green growth exhibitors from over 20 countries participated in the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) on 10th May, organised by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) in partnership with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Five plenary sessions addressed the industry’s most pressing issues, ranging from “Demystifying Climate Action” and “Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) & Green Finance” and “Closing the Loop: Circular Economy in the Fashion Industry” to “Purchasing Practice” and “Due Diligence and Legislation”.

The sessions were complemented by exhibits from globally renowned recycling and renewable energy companies, showcasing their sustainability and green technologies, products and solutions.

BGMEA president Faruque Hassan pointed to the fact that the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has certified a total of 160 Bangladeshi factories as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), among them 48 being even LEED platinum-rated. Five hundred more factories are currently in the pipeline for certification and 40 out of the world’s top 100 garment factories can be found in Bangladesh.

Image: at the Sustainable Apparel Forum 2022 / SAF

“Today, our clothing factories are not only safer, but also have become more dynamic, modern, energy-efficient and environment-friendly. Bangladesh has by far the highest number of green garment factories in the world,” he said and added that the “BGMEA joined the UN Fashion Industry Charter (UNFCCC) with an ambition to reduce GHG emission by 30 percent till 2030”.

“There has been significant improvements in the apparel industry of Bangladesh as far as safety and sustainability is concerned. However, there is still work to be done to promote sustainability in the sector for which stakeholders’ engagement and collaboration is the key,” said Anne van Leeuwen, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh.

To demonstrate the crucial place that sustainability takes up in the industry, there were 12 presentations on important aspects of apparel and textile sustainability. Presenters included Amina Razvi, chief executive officer of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition; Mohamad Anis Agung Nugroho, programme manager at Better Work Bangladesh; and Vic Lau, customer success manager at impact platform Higg; Lewis Perkins, president of the Apparel Impact Institute; Janet Mensink, executive director of the Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP); Ian de Cruz, global director at accelerator P4G; and Marie Busck, head of CSR & sustainability at the Danish textile and clothing association (DM&T).

The consensus was that collaboration is key and that it takes the participation of all stakeholders along the value chain to build a sustainable, responsible and ethical apparel industry that will not only benefit manufacturers, but also buyers and the economy of Bangladesh.

“We have to keep in mind that it is not a job that should be defined to only one party. Both the manufacturers and the buyers have to work together for ensuring ethical and sustainable manufacturing,” stated the mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation and former BGMEA president Md. Atiqul Islam in the opening plenary session.

Image: at the Sustainable Apparel Forum 2022 / SAF

“Promoting environmental, social and governance in the Bangladesh apparel industry is not one party’s cup of tea any more. We can only ensure prosperity through shared identity,” agreed M. Riaz Hamidullah, ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

“The Bangladesh government is committed to ensuring sustainable growth of Bangladesh apparel industry. I will try my best to help Bangladesh make the transition into a sustainable future,” promised Bangladesh’s commerce minister Tipu Munshi in the closing plenary session.

“At this year’s SAF, we have brought all the fashion stakeholders under one roof to accelerate the momentum of sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had an immense impact on the global apparel supply chain. This is high-level networking where it has been discussed how we can turn the needle so that the lofty sustainability goals our industry so often talks about are translated into meaningful, practical actions,” summed up Mostafiz Uddin, founder and CEO of the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange.

Sustainable Apparel Forum