Bangladesh’s Success in Building Green Factories: A Silent Revolution in RMG Industry

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Bangladesh achieved a new milestone in transforming RMG industries into a green sector. With the increasing market demands of Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garments (RMG) and growing competition in the global market, Bangladesh took the initiative of ‘go green’ in the RMG industry. Notably, since the catastrophe of the Rana Plaza, Bangladesh has been continuously working to transform the industry into a world-class grade and making partnership with global consortiums like Accord and Alliance to improve workers’ safety and industrial environment. As a result, Bangladesh is reaping from these initiatives with thriving exports, growing satisfaction of global buyers and advancing the industry. Markedly, the greenization initiatives have been endorsed with global recognition. Recently, US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) has certified three more RMG factories as green. Therefore, the number of green RMG factories has been reached at 171. Now Bangladesh is the home of top green factories and largest number of green RMG factories are there in Bangladesh. To be noted, 9 out of world’s top 10 green garments factories are in Bangladesh. Among 171, 53 are in the platinum category, 104 in gold, 10 in silver and another four Leed-certified factory buildings as of September 12. 550 factories are also in the process of getting Leed certification. It is a remarkable achievement for Bangladesh, especially for the RMG industry, when the country is emphasizing on green revolution, green economy. In culmination, the accomplishment is heralding a revolution in RMG industry.

Figure: Bangladesh in green RMG regime

Before going further, it is imperative to talk over what is green RMG factory and why it is significant. Green RMG is a low-carbon economic facility equipped with eco-friendly design and manufacturing processes that efficiently improve greenhouse gas emission, environmental pollution and energy consumption. It denotes the environmentally-sustainable production practices. The practices include waste management, energy efficiency and water conservation. In essence, the facility involves both infrastructural and implacability development mechanisms. Infrastructurally, green RMG takes on the facilities of eco-friendly production system with the involvement of the efficient use of energy as well as competitive cost-benefit analysis of manufacturing stages. From the implacability perspective, it emphasizes on workers’ safety, working environment, skill development and capacity building of RMG factory.

The very significance of green RMG industry can be marked with designated facilities. From environmental perspective, it is environment-friendly as it reduces carbon emission and increases the use of renewable energy. It is well-known that fashion industry is the most polluting industry only after oil and gas. It requires thousands of chemicals, different sources of energy and many sophisticated processes. When garment and textile are top sectors of consuming energy and water in Bangladesh, green facilities hence are crucial in this regard. From the cost-benefit side, green RMG factory reduces production cost and accelerates productivity by cutting down energy use by 40% and water consumption by more than 30%. Moreover, it reduces its utility cost, saves energy, and enhances productivity. In regard to attain sustainability, green RMG facilitates immensely by introducing green technology, green economy as well as longevity of factories. Though, the initial cost of greenization is relatively high, once it is completed then it will serve long time and give huge returns. In addition, green buildings also ensure a safe workplace for workers as the factory owners have to follow certain rules for the construction of the buildings. Hence, it augments the capacity of workers and thus increases productivity.

Now, it comes to matter why the certification of green RMG factories is marked as huge accomplishment and how it is turning a silent revolution in RMG industry of Bangladesh. Essentially, the very achievements are heralding the chapter of revolution in the sector. The accomplishments can be traced with some specified attainments. First, the green certification through USGBC is a symbol of sustainability and leadership globally. It has recognized the Bangladesh’s place in the international leadership market. It will not only increase the confidence of buyers to be more engage with Bangladesh’s RMG sectors but also spread the value of ‘Made in Bangladesh’ trademark across the world. Second, the benchmark of green RMG will elevate Bangladesh as a green field for investment in the growing apparel sectors. The damage on buyers’ interest in investing in the RMG sectors, with the allegation of lack of infrastructural facilities and labour rights, will be regained. Now, Bangladesh has been proved as the favourable destination for RMG. Consequently, it will expand Bangladesh’s RMG markets and provide strength to compete efficiently with other countries in exporting apparel. It is also crucial when RMG industries are facing challenges due to the disruption of supply chain, rising shipping cost amid the war in Ukraine.

Third, the accreditation of Leed certificate will increase efficiency and innovation as this recognition will engage the local RMG business with international markets. Thus, the efficiency-led industrialization will go for high-end products with smart tech-led facilities. In effect, it will increase production and exports. Further, the increasing productivity will enhance exports. It will also contribute to Bangladesh when the country is going to face new challenges after double graduation in 2026. A resource-intensive RMG sector was needed such green transition to help the country achieve sustainable economic growth and face the post-LDC graduation challenges. The transition to green industrialization is crucial for sustainable growth and Bangladesh’s new economic status after LDC exit when Bangladesh will require complying with new global rules. Fourth, in facing the growing challenges in the area of sustainability, climate change, groundwater depletion, green industrialization and green economy is crucial. By establishing a sustainable, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly apparel industry, Bangladesh can now focus more now on and recycling, circular economy and outsourcing strategy. Due to the growing aging population and high labour cost, countries like China and South Korea are concentrating on alternative destination for outsourcing production. In this case, Bangladesh can be the best option. Moreover, pre-consumption wastage of RMG industries in Bangladesh can be a huge source of recycled yarn and other raw materials using the innovation and capacity development after the green certificate. Now, 60% of pre-consumption wastage is exported to India, 10% ends up in landfills, 10% gets recycled, and 20% goes to system loss.

Fifth, the results of green factories will be notable for environmental sustainability through efficient resource use, less waste & pollution, climate change adaptation & mitigation, less consumption of energy and proper management of hazardous chemicals. In effect, it will help Bangladesh in attaining environmental sustainability. Six, the benefits of green factories will have a trickledown effect for other initiatives taken by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). BGMEA is the signatory of the UN fashion industry charter for Climate Action with UNFCCC, has pledged to “Green Button Initiative” of the German government and is the member of the task force on GEZ (Green Economic Zones Guidelines) for BEZA. The vigorous confidence and strength of green certificate will accelerate other green initiatives. In turn, these will make the RMG industry robust and competitive in the global arena.

In essence, the certification of green RMG factories bears profound significance. With the global recognition of its infrastructural capacity and compliance, the RMG industry of Bangladesh has been accredited as trademark slogan of ‘Made in Bangladesh’. It will not only help accelerating productivity of the apparel sectors but also demonstrate to circulate the brand value of Bangladeshi RMG in the global market. Notably, the very accomplishment will produce the confidence of foreign buyers and hence the export volume will get new boost with expanding scopes of opportunities. Notably, the contribution of more than 82% of export earnings of this sector to the national development and engagement of 4.5 million employees will be expedited in coming days. It will herald a new horizon in the RMG industry with the sustainable and circular apparel sectors in capturing the global market in the current global trend, along with workplace safety and compliance, making the transition of Bangladesh into a Developing Country from 2026 smooth and successful.

– Md. Saiful Islam is serving as Research Manager at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA). Prior to that, he served as Research Associate at the East Asia Study Center (EASC), University of Dhaka.

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