Apparel factories have to be environmentally compliant to grow Bangladesh’s export earnings, and buyers should also cooperate with garment producers by giving them the right price, as this is imperative for making the ongoing green transition of the sector sustainable.
Such views came from the diplomats of importing countries, economists, industry leaders, and development activists at a dialogue organized by CPD on Tuesday.
The dialogue, titled “Securing Green Transition of the Textile and Readymade Garments Sector in Bangladesh,” was held at a city hotel with State Minister for Planning Dr. Shamsul Alam as the chief guest, European Union Ambassador in Dhaka Charles Whiteley, and Swedish Ambassador Alexandra Berg Von Linde as guests of honor.
Vice President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Md. Shahidullah Azim, and Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh, Thijs, also spoke at the session, chaired by CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun, with a keynote presented by CPD’s Research Fellow Muntaseer Kamal.
Shamsul Alam said the government is working to develop labor conditions and regulate the industry properly.
“The government’s only responsibility is to cooperate on better labor conditions, but we cannot fix the right prices of the clothes, although this is vital for workers,” he said. “The industry should negotiate with buyers for better prices; the government supports this by providing the right policies and regulations in this regard.”
The minister said that the government is giving importance to the green growth of apparel industries, so taxes have been reduced. He observed that exporters and also the workers are benefited from the dollar price hike against taka, and this opportunity should be utilized properly.
The EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, said Bangladesh is doing very well in the RMG’s green transition. Now an action plan is needed here to attain a premium price for garments stitched in green factories.
In response to a question, Whiteley said he could not understand how a Bangladeshi garment worker lives on his or her wages of taka 8, 000 (US$73) monthly.
He also said that the EU is closely observing labor rights and the human rights situation in Bangladesh.
The BGMEA Vice President Shahidullah Azim said an upgrade to the minimum wage for the workers is under process.
“Workers, government, and factories are collectively working on this; hopefully, it will come next month,” he added.
He also said that the green transition is vital for not only the environment but also for sustainability in the RMG sector. But for this, we need to get reasonable prices for exported clothes. We expect commitment and cooperation from buyers.
The Swedish Ambassador in Dhaka, Alexandra Berg Von Linde, said, “RMG is our focus area. Green investment is needed to minimize negative climate impacts. We believe joint effort is required to secure labor rights.
In his keynote paper, CPD Research Fellow Muntaseer Kamal recommended reviewing the policies and regulations related to the RMG sector to embrace the green transition.
CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun said the RMG factories are important for securing our employment, foreign currency earnings, and women’s empowerment.
“We have to have more complaints in terms of safety measures in factory buildings, voluntary reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, technology use, investment, and skill development,” she added.
Tahmina Rahman, general secretary of the RMG Workers Federation, said laborers are losing their jobs because of climate change. Automation will also cut the number of jobs. In the factory, labor rights are violated, which causes a reduction in the number of female workers. The government should care about this as well as the minimum wage.
Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh, Thijs Woudstra, said buyers’ support is important for implementing the green factory setup. Factories should be sustainable to go to the second phase of development.
UNIDO’s NPC, Asadun Noor, told BM that they are working on the green transition of the factories by encouraging the reuse of garment waste. They get positive responses from the garment owners, but funding is a big problem here.