Bangladesh Garment Makers Unflustered by EU’s Proposed Legislation on Sustainable fashion

Updated: Sep 21

By Apparel Resources

This article was published in Apparel Resources August 22, 2022.

The scale of the global textile industry is enormous. It produces 100 billion pieces of clothing upwards every year, representing around 3 percent of the world’s GDP, employing roughly 75 million people.

At the same time, it also creates 84 percent of textile waste that is sent to landfills at a cost of US $ 3.7 billion every year and this scale of wastage has created an urgent need to help reduce the continued damage to planet Earth.

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

The European Green Deal (EGD) is a set of initiatives that commits all 27 member states to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. It commits them to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050; decoupling economic growth from resource use; and ensuring no person and no place is left behind.

It may be mentioned here that textile consumption 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 top five for resource use and greenhouse gas emissions.

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

In 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 if the EESC adopted opinions on the Commission’s sustainable products roadmap for making sustainable products the norm, on a new regulation on eco-design and on a strategy for sustainable textiles.

The move by the EU though appreciable, nonetheless is loaded with ramifications for major apparel manufacturing destinations — according to Eurostat, EU is the world’s biggest apparel importer and its top five sources are China, Bangladesh, Turkey, the UK and India — and being the second-largest apparel supplier to the EU as well as the world, garment makers in Bangladesh have reasons 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,” opines BGMEA Director Mohiuddin Rubel.

Mohiuddin has reasons for optimism and the reasons are many.

To start with, Bangladesh today 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 the hallmark in sustainability endeavours, the LEED-certified Green buildings which are becoming a norm in Bangladesh, if at all, are proof enough of Bangladesh apparel sector’s remarkable sustainability efforts.

The infamous Rana Plaza disaster, which is seen by many as the trigger that led to more and more garment makers turn towards green building to ensure safe and secure work environment, only helped further the sustainability goals of the industry, which is today working with international stakeholders to attain new heights in social and environmental sustainability.

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

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

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

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

They will also ensure 100 per cent sustainability data reporting, 80 percent green factories and a 60 percent increase in production efficiency.

These efforts put in by the industry are now noted by the global buyers as well, who are in favour of the stakeholders concerned, to join hands, to further the sustainability goals.

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

Supporting the views as shared by Ziaur Rahman, Head of Finance and Operations of another global biggie Marks and Spencer, Kamal Ahammed, says circular fashion is a requirement rather than a trend even as he underlines moving towards sustainable and circular fashion would be good for Bangladesh as there is no other alternative but to do so.

And there is no denying Bangladesh garment industry is already moving towards it in the right earnest.

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

They want to buy and connect with brands who care about the products and services they offer; who value the importance of an ethical supply chain and will incorporate social and human rights and environmental considerations into how they do business across the world, underlines the report adding in response to it, more and more companies are now expanding their sustainable assortments and working to boost the sustainability and transparency of their supply chains.

“The bottom line going into 2022 is that the fashion industry faces a complex mix of challenges and opportunities, in which there is little room for missteps. Decision makers have their work cut out to manage the demands of digital, sustainability and the supply chain,” states the report, indicating consumers world over are now focusing on sustainability and circular fashion and manufacturing destinations globally would do good to pay heed to the same.

The second biggest apparel exporter globally, Bangladesh garment industry is already at it and the proposed EU legislation will only speed up the process, which would only prove beneficial for the Bangladesh garment manufacturers.

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