Speaking at the Sustainable Apparel Forum held in Dhaka on 10 May, Tipu Munshi, the commerce minister, said he was committed to ensuring the green growth of Bangladesh’s apparel industry.

The third edition of the event saw more than 50 speakers from over 20 countries attend with plenary sessions including ‘Demystifying Climate Action’, ‘Purchasing Practice’, ‘ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) and Green Finance’, ‘Closing the Loop: Circular Economy in the Fashion Industry’, and ‘Due Diligence and Legislation’.

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The event was organised by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange together with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA).

It was headline sponsored by the Embassy of Netherlands in Bangladesh, while Cotton Council International was platinum sponsors; Epic Group, Laudes Foundation, Higg and H&M Group were gold sponsors; Better Work Bangladesh and Prime Bank were silver sponsors; and bKash, Brac, Pacific Associates, and Rahimafrooz Solar were bronze sponsors of the event.

Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) Mostafiz Uddin said: “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 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?”

Ambassador and head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh H.E. Charles Whiteley said it is vital for Bangladesh to be able to successfully make the transition into a green ecosystem, with ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of the Netherlands H.E. M. Riaz Hamidullah adding: “Promoting Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) in Bangladesh apparel industry is not one party’s cup of tea anymore.  We can only ensure prosperity through shared identity.”

In the opening plenary of the SAF, Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation and former President of BGMEA Md. Atiqul Islam said building a green, responsible and ethical apparel industry will not only bring benefits for the manufacturers, but also it is also equally beneficial for the economy.

“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 to ensure ethical and sustainable manufacturing,” he added.

While the Bangladesh apparel industry has taken strides to become safer and more green, Anne van Leuwen, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh, said: “There is still work to be done to promote sustainability in the sector for which stakeholders’ engagement and collaboration is the key.”

BGMEA president Faruque Hassan said: “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. US Green Building Council (USGBC) certified a total of 160 Bangladeshi factories as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), among them 48 are LEED platinum-rated. 40 out of the world’s top 100 garment factories are in Bangladesh. Moreover, 500 more factories are in the pipeline for certification.”

He added: “BGMEA joined the UN Fashion Industry Charter (UNFCCC) with an ambition to reduce GHG emission by 30% till 2030.”