Harmonization of standards is imperative for a greener clothing industry

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WTO forum declared as Bangladeshi factories face foreign obstacles


ASJADUL KIBRIA, FROM GENEVA
| Published: September 15, 2023 00:19:20


As fashion giants impose varied standards and requirements on garment manufacturers and exporters in developing countries, including Bangladesh, this hinders making factories eco-friendly and sustainable in the transition process.
In this regard, trade experts argue that there should be some harmonization of standards regarding green factories producing ready-made garments (RRPs), so that more manufacturers feel encouraged to join the gathering on an environmentally friendly trade route.
They made the observations during a working session of the WTO Public Forum 2023 on Thursday in Geneva.
Speakers at the discussion titled “Green trade measures and their implications for development: a focus on the global textiles and clothing value chain” also argued that urgent action was needed to address the emerging global climate emergency.
They also noted that new sectoral initiatives driven by the need to reach net zero carbon emissions have increased, notably in the textile and clothing sector.
As this sector has historically played a typical role in reducing poverty through trade, it has enabled many countries like Bangladesh to gain a foothold in industrialization and global value chains, they said.
Taking part in the session as a panelist, Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director of the Dhaka-based Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said that the textiles and readymade garments (PRG) sector oriented Export is an important driving force of Bangladesh’s economy as it is a source of employment generation and foreign exchange earnings.
She mentioned that in the financial year 2022-23, the sector earned US$ 48.36 billion, which accounted for 87.06 percent of the country’s total foreign exchange earnings and 11.74 percent of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of Bangladesh. .
Around 5,500 factories in the textile and ready-to-wear sectors employ 4.5 million people in the country.
Bangladesh has already taken various steps to make the textile and clothing industry greener, the policy think tank’s executive director told her audience about the transition.
“Bangladesh has already started the transition to green manufacturing and has taken various policy initiatives in its national development plans and policy documents in general to support climate impact mitigation, promote green transition and prevent air pollution. environment,” she explained.
The country is now home to 52 of the top 100 green industrial units in the world.
Dr. Fahmida informed the session that Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has adhered to the United Nations Climate Charter and helped the country become home to the largest number of green factories in the world.
Currently, there are 180 USGBC LEED certified green clothing factories in the country and another 500 factories are in the process of obtaining LEED certification.
Citing a CPD-GTS survey, she said that over the past five years, the total average green investment by factories was 80 million taka, or 7.50 million US dollars.
She cited various obstacles to creating green factories, including disparate standards set by global brands that do the marketing.
“Large global brands have adopted various standards for similar types of clothing, which sometimes discourages manufacturers and exporters from investing more in green factories,” she said.
“Exporters have also sometimes claimed that they do not benefit from the green investment bonus, which is disappointing,” Dr Fahmida said in his deliberations on the flip side of trade on the external front.
Funding is another issue that needs to be addressed, she suggested.
Bangladesh’s share in the global clothing export market stood at 7.90 percent last year, up from 6.40 percent in 2021, according to statistics available with the WTO.
The country also retained the second position in clothing exports, preceded by China and followed by Vietnam in the global market in 2022.
Focusing on the African experience, David Beer, managing director of TradeMark Africa, said more than 80 percent of the energy mix in Kenya is renewable, which creates a supporting infrastructure for eco-friendly clothing factories.
Jodie Keane, Senior Researcher at ODI, in her presentation focused on the policies and measures taken by three countries – Bangladesh, Kenya and Vietnam – to make the textile and clothing industry more green.
“These three countries have very different commitments to the social, environmental and economic modernization of the global textile and clothing value chain,” she said.
“As there is no market-driven path to achieving environmental or social improvement, public policy frameworks are essential,” she said. “The new green trade measure is an opportunity to improve the environment and Bangladesh and Vietnam have already shown major progress in this area.”
George Riddell, director of business strategy at E&Y, said textile waste is now becoming a problem.
“In the name of the second-hand clothing market, there is a tendency to dump textile and clothing waste, mainly from developed countries to developing countries,” he explained.
Maximilliano Mendez-Parra, senior fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), moderated the session in which all agreed that new green trade measures could trigger new exclusionary forces as retail chains supply adapt to new regulatory requirements.
They warned, however, that unless mitigated, this process could undermine the very goals that the new policy instruments seek to achieve, as well as broader global commitments to sustainable development under the 2030 Agenda.
The public forum is the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) largest outreach event which kicked off on Tuesday at the multilateral trade organization’s secretariat in Geneva. Thursday was the third day of the forum which ends today (Friday).

asjadulk@gmail.com

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