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Sustainable Apparel Forum Shows Promising Future for Bangladesh Apparel

After a three-year pause, the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) organized by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) partnering with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) was held in Dhaka on May 10. The event brought together more than 50 speakers and 20 exhibitors from over 20 countries to discuss and accelerate sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry, the world’s second-largest garment exporter.

This was the third edition of the event, which was founded in 2017 by Mostafiz Uddin, managing director, owner and CEO of denim manufacturer and washing plant Denim Expert Limited. Like most events, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the conference to pause. The last SAF event occurred in 2019, alongside the 11th annual Bangladesh Denim Expo (BDE). That year was the first time the event organizers had set supply chain standards for its exhibitors, requiring them to provide proof of compliance with industry standards. Kingpins initiated the protocol and encouraged other trade show organizers to implement the same standards.

“At this year’s SAF we have brought all the fashion stakeholders under one roof to accelerate the momentum of sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic which has had immense impact on global apparel supply chain,” Uddin said. “This is high-level networking where it has been discussed how we can turn the needle so that the lofty sustainability goals our industry so often talks about are translated into meaningful, practical actions.”

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Though Bangladesh has work to do in terms of workers’ rights—the International Trade Union Confederation recently named Bangladesh one of the “10 worst countries in the world for working people”—it has made significant progress in social issues with the help of development partners such as German development agency GIZ, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and UNICEF.

BGMEA president Faruque Hassan noted during this year’s SAF that the country is home to 160 LEED-certified factories—48 of which are LEED platinum-rated—and 40 out of the world’s top 100 garment factories. Another 500 factories await certification.

BGMEA itself is focused on improving sustainability at scale, and aims to join the UN Fashion Industry Charter (UNFCCC), which provides a framework for the fashion industry to facilitate engagement on climate action. BGMEA has a goal to reduce GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The forum was followed by the Bangladesh Denim Expo, where exhibitors like Officina+39, Soko Chemicals and Naveena Denim Limited presented their latest offerings.