Sustainability, probably the most important issue in the current context of trade and business of Textile and apparel industry. As we are experiencing the uncertainties everywhere in the industry i.e., less order, increase cost of production, raw material price hike, inflation and devaluation of taka, adverse weather leading to draught and flood, Russia-Ukraine conflict and price hike of energies. We have no other alternatives other than to remain sustainable. It is now the biggest challenge for the textile and apparel industry to remain sustainable.
Initiatives for sustainability must be economically viable, environmentally feasible and socially acceptable. The sustainability practices of manufactures are not only good for business, it is also becoming an integral part of the way product is marketed, purchased, operated and delivered. The responsibility for sustainability lies to all stakeholders including, buyers, manufactures, raw material suppliers and government.
To discuss the real issues – as to how the textile industry of Bangladesh can remain sustainable, Textile Today has arranged the 21st episode of TexTIMe (Textile Today Innovation Meet) titled “Remaining Sustainable amid Uncertainties” on September 1, 2022 at ICCB, Dhaka. The seminar was sponsored by Coluortex. Tareq Amin, Founder & CEO, Textile Today moderated the seminar.
Distinguished speakers in the panel were Hasib Uddin, Chairman APS Group; Kazy M. Iqbal Hossain, South Asia Regional Sustainability Manager, Lindex; Md. Hafizur Rahman, Chief Textile Officer, Fakir Fashion; Amin Khoja DGM, Technical, Textile Dyes Colourtex Industries Pvt. Ltd.
The moderator starts with most thriving issue of order cancelling, deferring or receiving the less orders from the buyers. To address the issue, Kazy M. Iqbal Hossain said, “The market will resume soon within 3 to 4 months. EU people like Bangladeshi manufactured products. New Year and Christmas are coming so consumption will increase. So, it is a temporary crisis.”
He also focused on ‘Transparent Communication’ between brands and suppliers, “Transparent communication is required from all part of the industry. Brands must transparently communicate with the suppliers what the challenges they are facing. Obviously, brands have some direction about business forecast and planning. If there are transparent communications, suppliers will understand the reality and confidence will build too”.
It is true that current uncertainty is hampering our orders and it is also true that the brands have a lot of unsold garments. Manufacturers are heavily dependent on the West and suffering from less orders. But the strength of Bangladeshi manufacturers is the ability to cope up with the challenges. Bangladesh T&A industry has always been developing through these challenges. The current image of our T&A industry is the result of addressing earlier challenges properly. Bangladesh.
As per BGMEA, Bangladesh has 91 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified green garment factories, which is the highest in the world. As many as 25 factories have achieved the highest certificate provided by the USGBC.
Md. Hafizur Rahman said, “It is time to prove ourselves, if there are challenges, there are opportunities also. Whenever we faced challenges, our entrepreneur coped up with challenges and maintained the growth. Right at this moment, we are fully focusing on strategical things to cope with the challenges.”
Hasib Uddin said, “It is best time to develop new ways, innovations and KPI to cope up with this situation. Efficiency of worker is low i.e., one third of Sri Lankan worker, we need to find out how we can be competitive in terms of worker efficiency and remain sustainable. We also need to intelligently deal our challenges to sustain in this business.”
In reply to the question of how textile chemical manufacturers are coping with the increased cost of raw materials and its impact on the supply chain, Amin Khoja said, “This uncertainty is hurting every part of the supply chain. Which is also hurting the textile dyes and chemicals industry. Whereas, to maintain this cost benefit to customers, we have to streamline the product’s efficiency on our end.”
“We also have to look at textile chemical products consistency in terms of bringing the efficiency up and pricing down in saving our resources. Also, if we frequently change the type of dyes and chemical products it will lead to a change in the backward linkage of resources which will not be viable for us,” he explained.
To remain sustainable, we must adapt with the technological advancement and also think of decreasing water and energy consumption. Dyeing is the integral part of RMG and we know it is costlier both in economic and environmental. It is the second largest cause of global water pollution, producing about 20 percent of global wastewater and is predicted to account for more than 10% of CO2 emissions by 2030. And we are experiencing the adverse effect in economy and environment.
Kazy M. Iqbal Hossain said, “Right now, in terms of knitted fabric dyeing or other fabrics, factories are using 1:5 to 6 liquor ratios. Some are using less amount of water. A lot of R&Ds have been done in terms of water sustainability, water saving and other innovative practices. In this current situation we must focus on using renewable energy and carbon emission reduction.”
Speakers also emphasis that waste water must be treated properly as waste water has value and important in developing the eco system. Moreover, water saving is important. A single drop of groundwater takes almost 50 years to return to its original position. And most of the dye houses in Bangladesh extract groundwater.
“As for taking any new innovative initiative, we have to see the economic viability of the initiative. Otherwise, it will not be feasible for the manufacturers, Hasib Uddin said regarding implementing innovative initiatives like ZLD (zero liquid discharge). “Rather we have to look for the other viable possibilities like rainwater harvesting. In APS Dyeing, due to our rainwater harvesting, we don’t extract any groundwater for 45 days.”
After that, speakers focused on how the technology or initiative will be implemented. They said this requires top management mindset and middle management efficiency. Without this combination, it cannot be achieved. Thus, training for mid-level management who actually implements the technology is inevitable.
Worker efficiency is another concerned issue for sustainability. Bangladeshi workers’ productivity is much lower than the competitive countries. Our workers and machine operators are not educated. If they were educated to some extent then certainly, Bangladesh’s workers efficiency would increase to a great extent. The guests also expressed their opinion that increasing the skills of employees will definitely lead to higher salaries. But it is a long process and proper strategy has to be adopted.Another interesting fact Kazy M. Iqbal Hossain pointed out that Bangladesh needs to focus more on value added products in this situation. Because the era of fast fashion is going to end and the slow, durable and circular fashion is coming.
In conclusion, we can say that, yes, it is true that we are passing through uncertainties. But we need to be optimistic. The situation will be better in coming days. Besides, we need to me much careful and cautious in decision making. Each and every point need to be address and monitor so that existing facilities can make lots of initiatives for sustainability. Technological adaption is must but investment on people who run the technology is important as well. Each and every sustainability KPI will be measured by the brands in coming future. It is also true that there is lack of investment in sustainability and human capital. So, it is high time to take up the challenges and prepare ourselves to be sustainable and it can boost our industry again.