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Global Conference Addresses Sustainability in Bangladesh

Government representatives, garment manufacturers, clothing brands, labor organizations and other key affiliates gathered in Boston this past weekend to address the Bangladesh apparel industry’s environmental state at conference titled “Sustainable Models for the Bangladesh Apparel Industry.”

Held at Harvard University, the third-annual day-long event focused on building a greener model for the Bangladesh apparel sector that will help put the nation in a competitive place while supporting supply chain workers.

Speakers emphasized that in order for Bangladesh to compete in the global apparel market, it must maintain cost-efficiency and comply with employees’ health and safety standards. Together, speakers and participants discussed recommendations for improving stakeholder relationships and increasing sustainability in the industry.

Economic adviser to the Bangladesh prime minister Dr. Mashiur Rahman opened the conference with a keynote session about the garment industry’s compliance and sustainability progress. He informed attendees that the Bangladesh government is working with international partners to achieve many initiatives, including improving workers’ rights and reducing carbon footprint.

Amy McGann, foreign affairs officer at the U.S. Department of State, noted that the American government will reevaluate its GSP designation for Bangladesh if all compliance and sustainability requirements are met.

Highlighting the country’s economic potential, World Bank economist Yevgeniya Savchenko said that the nation could easily take market share away from other Asian nations if it makes progress on garment safety and sustainability.

Shawkat Aziz Russell, vice president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), ended the discussion by noting that the country’s old factories have been upgraded to meet compliance initiatives and that although resource access is still challenging, new factories are more environmentally-friendly and safe for workers.

Four panels were also held to address environmentally-friendly solutions, which included supply chain compliance and the need for fair price strategy and shared responsibility, trade policy and worker’s rights, strategies for environmental sustainability development and a roadmap for the Bangladesh apparel industry to achieve $50 billion in sales by 2021.

Participants and speakers anticipated that Bangladesh will have a great future, even though more change is still needed to achieve complete compliance and sustainability in the nation’s garment sector.