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Unveiling Bangladesh's RMG green revolution

Arifur Rahaman Tuhin
17 Sep 2023 22:53:22 | Update: 18 Sep 2023 13:06:49
Unveiling Bangladesh's RMG green revolution

In the dynamic landscape of Bangladesh's ready-made garment RMG industry, a silent yet powerful transformation has been taking place—the emergence of a green revolution within the realm of RMG.

This evolution signifies a significant shift towards sustainable and eco-friendly practices, reshaping the way authorities concerned perceive and approach garment manufacturing.

ABA Group commenced the establishment of an environment friendly readymade garment factory located at the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone in Pabna in 2009. This factory, named Vintage Denim Studio, was awarded the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification on May 30, 2012, by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

Attaining this milestone signifies the country’s induction into the realm of certified environmentally friendly ready-made production. Over the course of 11 years, Bangladesh has now amassed an impressive tally of 202 factories acknowledged by the USGBC, establishing a global pinnacle.

Among these factories, a remarkable breakdown reveals 73 boasting platinum ratings, 115 adorned with gold rating, 10 gleaming with silver rating, and an additional 4 securing certification status.

Currently, Bangladesh proudly hosts the leading ready-made factory, namely Green Textile Ltd Unit-4, while also claiming the pinnacle spot for knitwear production through Fatullah Apparels. In the realm of woven fabric manufacturing, Remi Holdings takes the prestigious lead within the country's borders. Additionally, Bangladesh stands as the home to eight out of the top 10 environmentally certified RMG factories.

Notably, a significant majority of the elite 100 green-rated RMG factories, precisely 53, can be found flourishing within Bangladesh's industrial landscape.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) informed that another nearly 600 RMG factories are waiting for LEED certification from the USGBC.

The achievement helped to bring back country’s workplace safety reputation, which damaged after deadly on Tazreen Fashion fire on November 24, 2012, and Rana Plaza tragedy on April 24, 2013.

The Tazreen tragedy claimed the lives of 117 individuals, while the catastrophic Rana Plaza collapse resulted in the devastating loss of 1,134 lives and inflicted injuries upon approximately 2,500 individuals.

Speaking to The Business Post, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan said, “Once, we faced criticism for operating in unsafe work environments. However, the landscape has dramatically transformed with the advent of the green revolution, and now, the very same community regards us as a safest and environment friendly readymade garment producer.”

He added, “Despite buyers not offering us equitable compensation, our commitment to sustainability has empowered us to lower our carbon footprint and construct a safer industry for the generations to come.”

Causes behind the revolution

Since first decade of 21 century, awareness on environment, compliance and workplace safety in industry has been on the rise within the industrial landscape of Bangladesh, particularly among its major export destinations, most notably the countries within the European Union (EU) zone.

In the same time, Bangladesh’s apparel sector witnessed industrial accident, such as fire, building collapse regularly. Besides, workers unrest, force labour and child labour was a regular issue during this time.

While certain visionary entrepreneurs such as ABA Group's Chairman Md Sajjadur Rahman Mridha and Envoy Group's Chairman Kutubuddin Ahmed formulated strategies to establish eco-friendly factories, aiming to both meet buyer expectations and secure enduring advantages, a significant portion of the ready-made garment (RMG) factories remained outside the realm of compliance.

But the deadly Tazreen Fashion and Rana Plaza accident, which put Bangladesh under pressure in the global community, factory owners forced to think to improve their workplace environment. Some visionary entrepreneurs are planned to setting up green factory to create more attention of brands and right groups. 

They agreed for at least 25 per cent additional investments to set up green factory, and the green revolution is output of the initiative.

Among the entrepreneurs, Plummy Fashion Managing Director Md Fazlul Hoque set up a green factory. His factory got LEED Platinum certificate in 2015 and obtained 92 score out of 110. Currently the factory holds eighth certified green factory among the world. 

Fazlul Hoque said, “We set up green factory bring back the country’s reputation. My factory has ease access to the buyers than the compliance garment, thanks to the LEED certified factory. Buyers are also interested to work with the LEED certified factory.”  

Following the tragic incident of the Rana Plaza collapse, Fatullah Apparels underwent a remarkable transformation from an unsafe facility to an iconic hub within the RMG industry. Now, it stands as a haven sprawled across 2.7 acres of land, adorned with thriving fruit plants that flourish despite the surrounding polluted waters on three sides. The presence of lavender water-hyacinths further enhances the aesthetic allure of the locale.

Unless anyone step onto the narrow peninsula, you'd never discern that it's not a vacation resort but indeed a ready-made garment factory. Featuring an expansive verdant lawn, a serene pond, flourishing gardens, and a recreational area, the site takes on the appearance of a meticulously kept garden retreat amid a bustling environment.

Even before entry to the piece of land, it is quite difficult for anyone to predict that around 600 workers work there.

“This achievement is not only for me but also for Bangladesh. Now we can say with pride that Bangladesh’s apparel industry is much safer than others,” said Fatullah Apparels Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder Fazlee Shamim Ehsan.

“It was my dream that my factory would become one of the best eco-friendly factories in the world and accordingly I set it up in a planned way. Thanks to almighty that finally I achieved it.

In February of this year, Green Textile Ltd Unit-4 from Bangladesh secured the highest attainable score within the LEED certification framework by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), thus claiming the esteemed title of the world's foremost environmentally conscious factory.

The factory in Mymensingh’s Bhaluka upazila – categorised as LEED Platinum on February 21 – scored 104 points out of 110, according to the USGBC. This factory is a joint venture by the Envoy Group and Epic Group. Envoy group also has world first LEED certified textile mill, located in Valuka, Mymenshing.

Kutubuddin Ahmed, Director of Green Textile said, “We set up the green factories from the concept. Now, we are in advantage position from the brands compared to any other factories, though we have to invest huge,” Kutubuddin, also Chairman of Envoy Group added.

Benefit from the green factory

The establishment of a green factory demands substantial investments, often exceeding 30 per cent more compared to conventional non-green counterparts. This prompts a common inquiry: Do green factories yield any financial advantages in return?

Entrepreneurs have indicated that despite providing improved working conditions to their employees in green factories, they have not yet observed a superior pricing structure compared to non-green counterparts. However, they do acknowledge that there exist numerous additional advantages for eco-friendly ready-made garment (RMG) factories.

Plummy’s Fazlul Hoque said, “I spend an additional 25 per cent of funds compared to a conventional factory setup to secure LEED certification, along with the requirement of maintaining a 30 per cent open space within my factory premises, which incurred substantial costs. Despite obtaining the certification nearly eight years ago, the selling price of my products has remained unchanged.”

Envoy Chairman Kutubuddin said, “Firstly, a primary factor lies in the consistent preference of buyers for green factories when considering their order placements. Secondly, and of paramount importance, the reduction in water and electricity consumption characteristic of green factories translates to a substantial decrease in operational costs.”

 “Due to their dedicated focus on environmental concerns, green factories consistently uphold superior health conditions for their workers. This emphasis on well-being results in a gradual enhancement of workers' efficiency, subsequently contributing to improved profitability”, he added.

Echoing with Kutubuddin and Fazlul Hoque, Fatullah’s Ehsan said with regret, “Though buyers are yet to provide extra price considering reduce carbon emission and our huge investments, we believed that they will force to pay more when the European Union Due Diligence Directive will be executed.”

Ehsan also made a plea to the government, requesting the reduction of high taxes imposed on the procurement of materials associated with green factories.