Green garment efforts not yielding better prices
Entrepreneurs yesterday expressed disappointment as their green operations are not fetching better prices although the costly move has allowed buyers to source products from eco-friendly factories and benefit from the improving image of the whole supply chain.
Garment exporters in Bangladesh have pumped hundreds of crores of taka into setting up the green factories, which are helping them consume 30 per cent less energy and water and have brightened the image of the industry.
The move is also helping international buyers and retailers as consumers globally are increasingly becoming conscious about the sustainability of the supply chain.
"However, we are not getting premium prices from retailers and brands," said Md Fazlul Hoque, managing director of Narayanganj-based Plummy Fashions Ltd, the greenest knitwear factory in the world.
He said many developments had taken place in the garment sector in recent years as per the demands of buyers. But the green garment factories get only a 2 per cent rebate on the final settlement of income tax, he said.
The entrepreneur was speaking at the launching programme of an initiative of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and the embassy of Sweden in Bangladesh at the Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka.
The initiative -- Securing Green Transition of the Textile and Readymade Garments Sector in Bangladesh – aims to contribute towards the enhancement of environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral growth with productive employment opportunities for women and youth.
In recent years, Bangladesh has made impressive strides in improving working conditions. The country is now home to the highest number of green garment factories in the world.
Currently, the number of green apparel factories stands at 157 as the United States Green Building Council yesterday awarded the certification to two more factories. Nearly 500 more garment factories are waiting to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certificated.
Nazma Akter, founder and executive director of the Awaj Foundation, a labour rights organisation, suggested buyers pay fair prices for the garment items produced at the green factories since manufacturers have spent hugely to build them.
The green factories should also pay attention to the welfare of the workers, especially to female workers, she said.
Shams Mahmud, managing director of Shasha Denim, said he had partnered with Turkey investors to secure better prices.
Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said although consumers were paying more for the goods produced in the green garment factories, exporters were not getting the prices accordingly.
He demanded the government waive the duties on the imported chemicals used in the garment factories and reduce the source tax to encourage more green initiatives.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the sector was ready to change a lot if needed, but buyers are not paying better prices.
"Cleaner and greener production can't come free of cost."
Christine Johansson, deputy head of mission at the embassy of Sweden, called for marketing drives to get better prices.
Swedish companies account for 10 per cent of Bangladesh's annual garment exports.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, a lawmaker and the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forest and climate change ministry, called for taking measures for increasing the prices of garment items in order to solve the problems facing the industry.
For instance, buyers' price amounts to only 15 per cent of the retail price of a garment item. "If the price is raised to 30 per cent, it will be better for all stakeholders."
Mohammad Zahidullah, head of sustainability at DBL Group, one of the largest garment exporters, said buyers always wanted to hear good stories but they were not paying fair prices to manufacturers.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the CPD, thinks green initiatives should be pro-workers.
The garment industry has already set a standard in labour issues and is expected to do the same when it comes to setting environmental standards, he said.
Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the CPD, moderated the discussion.