Bangladeshi garment makers undeterred by proposed EU sustainable fashion legislation

The scale of the global textile industry is huge! It produces more than 100 billion pieces of clothing every year, which represents around 3% of the world’s GDP and employs around 75 million people.

At the same time, it also creates 84% ​​of textile waste that is sent to landfill at a cost of US$3.7 billion every year and this magnitude of waste has created an urgent need to help reduce ongoing damage to planet Earth.

Rightly so, the European Union (EU) has drawn up plans to create a climate-neutral continent.

The European Green Deal (EGD) is a set of initiatives that commit the 27 Member States to transforming the EU into a modern, resource efficient and competitive economy. It commits them to zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; decoupling economic growth from resource use; and ensuring that no person or place is left behind.

It can be mentioned here that the consumption of textiles has been identified by the EU as having the fourth highest impact on the environment, after food, housing and mobility. It is also one of the top three pressures on water and land use and the top five for resource use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU has therefore set several objectives for the textile industry. By 2030, all textile products must be durable, repairable and recyclable; largely made from recycled fibres; free of hazardous substances; and produced in a way that respects social rights.

At its July plenary, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) called on the European Commission to strengthen the social aspects of key proposals to align EU rules on sustainable products, eco-design and sustainable textiles, even though the EESC has adopted opinions on the roadmap of the Commission on sustainable products to make sustainable products the norm, on a new regulation on eco-design and on a strategy for sustainable textiles.

The EU decision, while significant, is nevertheless fraught with ramifications for major apparel manufacturing destinations – according to Eurostatthe EU is the world’s largest clothing importer and its top five sources are China, Bangladesh, Turkey, the UK and India – and being the second largest clothing supplier to the EU as well as the world, clothing manufacturers in Bangladesh have reason to be worried or do they?

“We have no reason to be alarmed by the EU’s announcement, rather it will be another opportunity for us,” he said. Mohiuddin Rubel, Director of BGMEA.

Mohiuddin has reason to be optimistic, and the reasons are many.

For starters, Bangladesh now has the highest number of LEED green garment factories – 165 factories – with 50 Platinum rated, 101 Gold rated, 10 Silver rated and 4 LEED certified.

Considered a hallmark of sustainability efforts, the LEED certified green buildings that are becoming the norm in Bangladesh, if at all, are proof enough of the remarkable sustainability efforts of Bangladesh’s garment industry.

The infamous Rana Plaza disaster, considered by many to be the trigger that caused more and more garment manufacturers to turn to green building to ensure a safe and secure working environment, has only contributed to achieve the sustainability goals of the industry, which today works with international partners. stakeholders to reach new heights in social and environmental sustainability.

“We will do more in the future for a sustainable and circular economy and work internationally with everyone. We are moving forward step by step,” says Faruque Hassan, president of the BGMEA, while adding that they are working with the P4G-funded Circular Fashion Partnership (CPF) initiative, which aims to achieve a long-term scalable transition to a circular fashion system that produces new products that are low-carbon and sustainably manufactured. responsible.

“The partnership between the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), BGMEA and Reverse Resources (RR) includes 19 brands, 17 recyclers and 85 manufacturers on board”, adds the BGMEA chair.

In line with the strategy of sustainable and circular textiles, garment manufacturers in Bangladesh have renewed their vision to keep pace with global strategies, even though on July 5, the garment manufacturers’ apex body of the Manufacturers Association and Garment Exporters of Bangladesh (BGMEA), unveiled its renewed vision to make the industry more sustainable, circular, energy efficient and green.

As part of the renewed vision, garment exporters in Bangladesh will reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2030 and they will use at least 50% of a mix of sustainable materials while reducing the water footprint by 50% blue. Thanks to these efforts, the sector will be able to reduce its energy consumption by 30% and use at least 20% renewable energy, while reports suggest that garment manufacturers in Bangladesh will invest US$1 billion in sustainable communities. .

They will also report 100% sustainability data, 80% green factories and a 60% increase in production efficiency.

These efforts by the industry are now also being noted by global buyers, who are supportive of relevant stakeholders to join hands in advancing sustainability goals.

“We recognize that we need to address the issue of industry transformation in a systematic way,” said Regional Country Manager of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Africa of H&M, Ziaur Rahman who adds that collaboration with others is vital to enable the necessary transformation of the entire industry.

Supporting the views shared by Ziaur Rahman, Head of finance and operations for another major global group Marks and Spencer, Kamal Ahmadasserts that circular fashion is a requirement rather than a trend, although he points out that shifting to sustainable and circular fashion would be good for Bangladesh as there is no alternative but to do so.

And there is no denying that the garment industry in Bangladesh is already heading there in earnest.

Meanwhile, according to McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2022 report, consumers want to know where the materials come from, how the products are made, and whether the people involved are treated fairly.

They want to buy and connect with brands that care about the products and services they offer; who appreciate the importance of an ethical supply chain and will integrate social and human rights and environmental considerations into the way they do business around the world, the report highlights adding in response, more and more companies are now expanding their sustainable assortments and working to build sustainability and transparency into their supply chains.

“The bottom line for 2022 is that the fashion industry is facing a complex mix of challenges and opportunities, in which there is little room for missteps. Decision makers have their work cut out to manage digital, sustainability and supply chain demands,” the report states, indicating that consumers around the world are now focusing on sustainability and that circular fashion and manufacturing destinations around the world would do well to improve. take it into account.

The garment industry in Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment exporter, is already there and proposed EU legislation will only speed up the process, which would only benefit garment manufacturers in the Bangladesh.

Michael O. Stutler