Time for RMG to be eco-correct, speakers say at roundtable

BDApparelNews Desk
21 May 2019  

Winnie Estrup Petersen, Danish ambassador in Dhaka; Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, and Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, associate editor, attend a roundtable on “Promoting eco-friendly production process in the RMG sector” jointly

Winnie Estrup Petersen, Danish ambassador in Dhaka; Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, and Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, associate editor, attend a roundtable on “Promoting eco-friendly production process in the RMG sector” jointly

Before 2012, DBL Group used 120 litres of water for washing a kilogram of fabric. But by 2016, the garment maker was able to bring down its water consumption to 60 litres thanks to installation of modern technologies.

This means, DBL can now save more than one billion litres of water in a year and also save more than one million kilograms of dyes and chemicals.

“Reduction of water consumption means reduction of energy consumption,” said Mohammed Zahidullah, head of sustainability of DBL Group.

Zahidullah’s comments came at a discussion on promoting eco-friendly production process in the garment sector, jointly organised by the Danish embassy and The Daily Star at the newspaper’s office in Dhaka.

If the others follow DBL Group’s lead, Bangladesh can save around 22 billion litres of water, cut down water waste by 18 billion litres and greenhouse gas by 46,000 tonnes in a year, according to a study of the International Finance Corporation.

A fund of $200 million would be created soon so that the textile, dyes and washing mill owners can avail easy finance for installation of eco-friendly production process, saving the environment, said Nishat Shahid Chowdhury, programme manager of PaCT of the IFC.

As per the recommendation of the PaCT programme, the National Board of Revenue hiked the duty on import of some chemicals, she said.

“The industries need more innovative solutions so that they can do better,” Chowdhury said, while suggesting industry-specific regulations for water and chemical usage.

The cost of labour, raw materials, energy and water in producing cloths will increase over time, said Winnie Estrup Petersen, the ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh.

“The environment suffers for increased production, so eco-friendly production processes are really the best way forward. We cannot stop producing, but we have to be more conscious about how we are doing that.”

In Bangladesh, industries’ energy use has reduced notably but the improvement is not so notable on the use of water, she added.

Currently, there are 85 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified green garment factory buildings, of which 23 are platinum rated -- with six having top global ranking, said Monower Hossain, senior deputy secretary to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The EU is looking to become climate-neutral by 2050 and climate-positive afterwards. If Bangladesh wants to continue to export to the EU it needs to bump up its renewal energy usage.

“If we want to be a leader in the global apparel industry that we desire by 2030, then we just cannot keep us confined within national rules and regulations and compliance code of conduct. We have to go for green factories, we have to go for circular economy, renewable energy and so many other things,” Hossain added.

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said: “We cannot harm the environment and also we cannot do anything that will shrink our garment sector. It is our golden egg that we have to hatch bigger and bigger and more efficiently because it is so much part of Bangladesh’s growth.”

So, the question now is how does the country sustain the growth of the garment sector and yet protect the natural resources, he said, while citing Mexico City, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world, as a cautionary tale.

Although there is a scope for efficiency improvement by using eco-friendly technologies, the problem is access to funds for garment factories, said Tareq Rahman, secretary to the Nordic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh.

“Brands need to do more in Bangladesh,” said Jacob Kahl Jepsen, commercial counsellor (head of trade) at the Danish Embassy in Bangladesh.

Azmal Hossain, managing director of Brenntag Bangladesh Limited, and Ethel Fanny Laursen, business unit director of Novozymes, were also present. Radhey Kaushik, regional marketing manager of Novozymes, presented the keynote paper, while Shahedul Anam Khan, associate editor of The Daily Star, moderated the discussion.