A recent survey on the apparel sector, released on 28th March (Sunday) revealed that around 6 per cent local garment factories have adopted new business models or innovative plans to incorporate sustainability in a post-pandemic recovery.
The survey was conducted in 2020 on 47 factories whose owners were presented certificates for “extraordinary performance in sustainability”.
The study had been conducted jointly by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Report Initiative (GRI).
It also mentioned the factories have set measures to improve efficiency, reduce cost of production and business management and attain more sustainable supply chains.
About 42 per cent said to aim to reduce energy, waste and resource consumption in the next three years by 2 to 15 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption every year by 5 to 25 per cent.
About 34 per cent have either a “reuse” or “recycle” practice for waste.
Some 98 per cent said to have an environmental grievance mechanism system in place, 6 per cent of which said to have taken immediate action on receiving complaints about disposal of solid waste in local waters.
In making the apparel factories eco-friendly, in the last two years, the sector saw a reduction in electricity consumption sourced from conventional energy of 17 per cent; 37 per cent of the factories surveyed used solar energy.
To comply with the goal of clean water and sanitisation, 15 per cent of factories use recycled water in the production process or in sanitation facilities, while 24 per cent factories practice harvesting rainwater for gardening, washing cars or for sanitation.
A majority or 91 per cent use borewell water while 32 per cent sourcing it from municipality infrastructure.
The factories claim to discharge water from effluent treatment plants on testing parameters as per the ZDHC guidelines including hydrogen levels, chemical and biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended and dissolved solids, temperature and colour.
Again, the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) programme has been taken up by a group of apparel and footwear brands and retailers to lead the industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals.
Some 9 per cent claimed to discharge treated water in rivers and the rest into sewer lines.
The data claims all participants had an environment management system and reduced plastic consumption by an average of 30 per cent in the past three years.
BGMEA President Rubana Huq presented the certificates and Zuena Aziz, principal coordinator (SDG affairs) at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Sudipto Mukerjee, resident representative of UNDP Bangladesh, also spoke.
Meanwhile, another research titled “A Pathway to Manage Private Sector Impact on Bangladesh National Priority Indicators (NPIs) and SDGs” found that around 100 per cent of the factories hired workers or employees from the local community from entry to top-levels depending on the job description.
The research showed that Bangladeshi RMG manufacturers are aligning their production process with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to attain the targets within the stipulated time frame.
The study also revealed that 27 per cent of surveyed factories needed to reallocate resources from existing sustainability practices to fight against COVID-19.
The need for reallocation resulted from the inability to carry out security awareness training on a regular basis, adjust salaries and compensations, undertake capacity development training and maintain regular operations of the production process.