Another fire befell a Bangladesh factory last week, reminding the world that safety standards still need work in the South Asian nation’s garment sector. But this week the country wants to remind the world that it’s making strides in compliance.
A new eco-friendly factory opened in Dhamrai on the outskirts of Dhaka Saturday and is expected to export $80 million worth of product each year.
AKH Group, one of the country’s leading garment exporters—which already supplies the likes of H&M, Primark and PVH—spent 150 crore taka ($19.1 million) to set up the AKH Eco Apparels Ltd facility, according to The Daily Star.
“We started construction of the building in the middle of 2014, when our customers were pushing for such production units,” Shamsul Alam, managing director of AKH Group, told the Daily Star.
The factory, which is situated on 13 acres of land, will be able to reduce electricity consumption by 1,295 megawatt-hours per year, fuel oil by 325 tones annually and water use by 30 percent. An onsite rainwater harvesting system will help the factory reduce its groundwater consumption and solar power will accommodate roughly 25 percent of the facility’s electricity demand.
“AKH symbolizes the new future of Bangladesh,” U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat said. “A transformation has been happening in Bangladesh in a new and innovative way.”
AKH Eco Apparels has already received gold certification from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is the second highest rating from the green building accreditation program after platinum.
“If the government can supply us gas with adequate pressure, we can build such eco-apparel buildings every two years, as we have a lot of potential and customers,” Alam said.
Bangladesh’s garment sector, it seems, is increasingly going green. Roger Hubert, head of Bangladesh and Pakistan for H&M said roughly 150 factories already open or under construction are applying the green concept to their facilities and they are the “future of Bangladesh’s garment industry,” the Daily Star reported Hubert as saying.
He added that building the green factories alone is not enough, however. Bangladesh needs to establish better systems for water, chemical and waste management to sustain a truly eco-friendly garment sector.
Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed reportedly said the country has been without an industrial incident for two years and nine months, according to the Daily Star, though several factory fires have happened in that time.
Exports to the U.S. from Bangladesh have still managed to see an uptick as the country works out the kinks in its compliance. Bangladesh exported $5.6 billion worth of goods to the U.S. last year, an almost 12 percent jump year over year.
But as Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) noted, “If we want to export $50 billion worth of garment items by 2021, we need such green factories and support of the buyers.”