Published on 12:00 AM, September 10, 2018

No gain from going green

RMG exporters don't get price benefit for environment-friendly production

Bangladesh's garment exporters are now regretting for establishing green factories as they are not getting the benefits of the huge investment they made to make their industrial units environment-friendly.

“The cost of setting up a garment unit went up by a third in case of a green factory,” said KM Rezaul Hasanat, CEO of Viyellatex Group, one of the leading Bangladeshi exporters with green factories.

“We could have invested the extra money to employ a one-third more workers.”

Per capita carbon emission in Bangladesh is 0.46 tonnes a year whereas in the US, the EU and Canada the figure ranges between 10 tonnes to 25 tonnes, he said.

So, Bangladesh's factories do not even need to get green certification from other countries or companies, Hasanat opined.

“Bangladesh is naturally green and the products we make here are also naturally green."

"I regret that I have set up green garment factories. The buyers do not want to pay even a single cent more for sourcing from a green garment factory,” he said, while speaking at a dialogue on green compliance at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) in Dhaka yesterday.

The MCCI, in collaboration with the Adam Smith International and the UKAID, Bangladesh organised the dialogue where retailers, exporters, executives of different garment factories and researchers spoke.

Currently, Bangladesh has the highest number of green garment factories along with top ranking units in the globe, said Shwapna Bhowmick, country head of Marks & Spencer.

Bangladesh has outperformed its competitor countries in green compliance for garment factories and the nation should highlight its success stories to the world, she said.

In Bangladesh, 67 green garment factories have already obtained the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and over 300 more are waiting to be certified.

“Bangladesh should market its great achievements with effective communication skills,” Bhowmick said. Marks & Spencer sources 40 percent of its garment items from Bangladesh, she said.

“The country produces a lot of value-added garment items although it was previously known as the producer of basic garment items only.”

“However, we [Bangladesh] have broken this barrier as the producer of the highest selling value-added garment items.”

For instance, Bhowmick said her company sources 90 percent of denim items from Bangladesh while local mills supply 70 percent of the fabrics needed to produce these denim items. However, Bangladesh needs to shorten its lead-time and improve the skills of the workers for higher productivity, she said.

The garment sector's strong green initiative was also noticed in the survey of the Partnership for a Cleaner Textile (PaCT) of the International Finance Corporation.

Local suppliers are doing great work in saving water, energy and environment, said Nishat Shahid Chowdhury, programme manager of Bangladesh PaCT.

In Bangladesh, 250 textile factories have invested a total of $39 million to save 21 billion litres of water a year thanks to the use of modern technologies, said Chowdhury.

Time has come to adopt the green compliance voluntarily, said Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a think-tank. The whole green concept was largely implemented during the global financial crisis mainly to save food and fuel, she said. Currently, 1,700 factories are running effluent treatment plants (ETPs) in their factories to save the environment.

Although the factory managements of these units regularly report to the Department of Environment (DoE), they need to improve the performance of the ETPs, said Syed Nazmul Ahsan, director of the state agency.

The DoE will start monitoring of the operations of the ETPs online in 500 factories to obtain better results from the plants, Ahsan said.

He said the high-ups of the factories are interested in setting up and running of the ETPs whereas the mid- and lower-level managers are less keen.

The government should formulate policies to encourage private sector entrepreneurs to invest in green garment factories, said Shahpar Selim, a consultant of the Economic Dialogue on Green Growth, UKAID, while presenting the keynote paper on “Environmental compliance opportunities in Bangladesh's readymade garments industry: lessons from the green high achievers”. Currently, two kinds of funds are available for setting up green factories but it is difficult to avail the fund, she said.

Of the funds, the green refinancing fund of the central bank is relatively easier to avail, she said.

Still, factory owners struggle to apply for this fund and the central bank should make the process easy, she said. Golam Mainuddin, MCCI vice-president; Miran Ali, managing director of Bitopi Group, and  Suvojit Chattopadhyay, country manager of the Adam Smith International, also spoke.