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Bangladesh pioneers in sustainable apparel, housing 200 USGBC certified green factories, championing environmental conservation and reducing carbon footprint.

In a bid to curb the environmental repercussions of the fashion industry, Bangladesh has been steering its apparel sector towards more sustainable practices. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has highlighted the fashion industry as a significant contributor to annual carbon emissions, accounting for 10%. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is targeting a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 to maintain global warming below 1.5° Celsius.

Bangladesh, holding a substantial 7.9% share of the global market, has been a notable player in this industry, both in terms of contribution to the economy and to the carbon footprint. The nation has been working assiduously to reform its $45 billion industry, which employs over 4.4 million individuals, predominantly rural women. Over the past 15 years, the country has pioneered in establishing green, sustainable manufacturing units, with 202 factories certified as “eco-friendly” by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) since 2009.

These green factories are designed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution while being energy-efficient. The certification process scrutinizes various aspects including sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, and the company’s strategy to diminish environmental impacts. Bangladesh stands second globally in housing green factories, with 200 certified establishments in the ready-made garment (RMG) and textile sectors, closely following the US which has 216.

Industry leaders in Bangladesh emphasize the necessity of sustainable practices not just for environmental conservation but also to cater to the evolving preferences of new-generation consumers who prioritize the environmental and social value of products. Md. Zillur Rahman Mridha, the Managing Director of Vintage Denim Studio, accentuates the importance of nurturing the planet and fostering employment over mere business profitability. The company has notably reduced its energy costs by 46% and water usage costs by 53% through its green initiatives.

Abdullah Hil Rakib, the managing director of TEAM Group, a burgeoning RMG conglomerate, shares a similar sentiment, highlighting the multifaceted benefits of green factories, including enhanced indoor air quality and safety measures for workers. The group operates two LEED-certified green factories and has plans to introduce more.

“As a businessman, I have the responsibility to protect the Earth for the next generation and curtail environmental impacts while manufacturing clothing items,” said S.M. Khaled, managing director of Snowtex, a LEED-certified green factory.

“Responsibilities towards the environment and society drove me to establish an eco-friendly factory.”

Despite the higher setup and operational costs of green factories, industry stakeholders affirm the long-term benefits, emphasizing the reduced utility costs and the move towards renewable energy sources, including solar panels. S.M. Khaled, the managing director of Snowtex, a LEED-certified green factory, underscores the moral obligation business leaders have towards protecting the environment for future generations.

According to Mongabay, the industry also witnesses collaborations aiming at sustainable water resource management and pollution control, with initiatives like the Partnership for a Cleaner Textile (PaCT) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals. BGMEA president Faruque Hassan proudly acknowledges Bangladesh’s leadership in sustainability and environmental protection in the RMG sector, urging for ethical buying practices and collaborative efforts from buyers and stakeholders to further the green mission.

Global brands like H&M, a significant buyer from Bangladesh, appreciate the strides made in the industry, emphasizing their commitment to supporting circular production processes and greenhouse gas emission reductions. The collaborative spirit extends to encouraging buyers to offer fair prices and place more orders, fostering a cooperative mindset to further the sustainability agenda.

As Bangladesh continues to forge its path in green manufacturing, it not only stands as a testament to its commitment to environmental conservation but also as a beacon of sustainable industrial growth, reshaping the narrative of the RMG industry globally. The journey, steeped in a sense of responsibility and pride, reflects a harmonious blend of business acumen and environmental stewardship, aiming for a future where the apparel industry operates in harmony with the planet.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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