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How ZDHC and sustainability can be implemented in Bangladesh textile industry

For sustainability management and installation, Bangladesh textile industry needs to build efficient professionals.

Staff Correspondent

Textile Industry is the third most polluting industry in the world. Aiming to renovate from one of the most polluting sectors into a sustainable sector, some organizations are working as an innovation hub. They are working hard to change the mindset and culture of the industry. On 7 August, Textile Today, a comprehensive international magazine for textile, apparel and fashion industry organized a seminar on “ZDHC & Sustainability Implementation in Textile Industry” on the occasion of their launching ceremony of a training and capacity building program in collaboration with Engineering Resources International (ERI) Ltd.

The aim of the training program is to make efficient professionals for the textile industry who will run the Sustainability Department and implement Sustainability Management System (SMS) in the factories and help the same to get the social, environmental and economic benefit and make the industry sustainable in the long run.

ZDHC and sustainability implementation Bangladesh textile industry
Figure 1: Distinguished panel speakers delivered speeches at the seminar.

Many manufacturers, chemicals suppliers, brand representative and textile professionals gathered there where Engr. Shafiqur Rahman, President, Institution of Textile Engineers and Technologists (ITET), was present as the chief guest. Among others, industry experts, international brands, and retailers’ representatives were present as special guests in the seminar including Prof. Dr. Engr. Ayub Nabi Khan, Pro Vice-Chancellor, BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology; Engr. Akbar Hakim, Managing Director & CEO, Engineering Resources International (ERI) Ltd, Director, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industries; Engr. Ehsanul Karim Kaisar, Eminent Industry Expert, Ex-Executive Director, Esquire Knit Composites Ltd, and Engr. Selim Reza, Senior Vice President, the Institution of Textile Engineers & Technologists (ITET), Bangladesh.

Two-panel discussion programs were held in the seminar where two keynote speakers spoke on ZDHC and sustainability implementation in textile industry. Prasad Pant, South Asia Director, ZDHC Program, discussed details about ‘ZDHC Implementation’ and Tareq Amin, Editor, and Publisher of Textile Today talked about ‘Sustainability Implementation’.

ZDHC implementation session

Prasad Pant addressed the misconceptions of people about ZDHC, effects of hazardous chemicals and the implementation process of ZDHC.

Prasad Pant South Asia Director ZDHC Program
Figure 2: Prasad Pant, South Asia Director, ZDHC Program, discussed details about ‘ZDHC Implementation’.

Introducing ZDHC Prasad Pant said, “The ZDHC Foundation oversees implementation of the ZDHC Program. Our mission is to advance towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals in the textile, leather and footwear value chain to improve the environment and people’s well being.”

According to a U.N. data, one child dies from the water-related disease every 15 seconds. The textile industry is the 3rd most polluting industry in the world after lather and paper. The industry got a very bad or negative image as a polluting industry. There are a lot of factories around the world, especially in these producing zone, producing continence, maybe wastewater which is discharged from a textile manufacturing plant is not treated enough to remove all these hazardous substances from going to the river, he said.

He displayed a photograph of a person who is the son of an employee of a factory of DuPont in the USA, DuPont has been making many years the Teflon finish, which is the very famous oil and water relevant finish. He was born with a lot of diseases, lots of problem in eye and face because his mother was exposed to TFC. TFC is known as teratogenic.

“We are actually pushing these hazardous chemicals to affect our next generation,” he explained.

Prasad Pant said, “There are about 4 million chemical substances in the world which are manufactured and used by us in various industries. About 80% of chemicals are used but we are not aware of its impact on our health and mind. We are using these chemicals still in our textile, leather and other industries but unfortunately, the chemicals are not regulated or legislated in our part of the world.”

Eventually Greenpeace, an international NGO has passed 7 years of detoxing the apparel value chain and has accomplished many things of Zero Discharge to Hazardous Chemicals roadmap. Before it touches its finishing line by 2020, ZDHC has to achieve the most critical aspect of transferring the ownership of the project or goals to the factories.

He depicted that the ZDHC is not really talking about zero discharge. “We are actually talking about sustainable chemistry and environmental prospectus. ZDHC is now a legacy for us but it is more of a holistic approach, more as sustainable chemical safer chemistry in the production process.”

Prasad Pant briefly described three pillars of ZDHC those are collaborative engagement, standard setting, and implementation & innovation projects.

“The ZDHC Program is a collaboration of 24 signatory brands, 59 value chain affiliates, and 15 associates. There are a lot of group from India, who’s become value chain affiliates”, Prasad pant gave these data and said, “Unfortunately, I can’t find a single textile manufacturer who has become a contributor to ZDHC from Bangladesh.”

Now he is really looking for more participation from the Bangladesh textile manufacturers contributing to ZDHC. Prasad Pant informed that they have prepared a list of chemical substances banned from intentional use in facilities that process textile materials and trim parts in apparel and footwear. The ZDHC MRSL has established acceptable concentration limits for substances in chemical formulations used within manufacturing facilities. He ensured that for the first time, owners on the responsibility of chemical compliance is shifted to the chemical industry.

“We are commanding with the ZDHC gateway tools that are conforming to ZDHC’s MRSL supporting textile and leather manufacturer to find safer alternatives and drive substitution of hazardous chemicals. So, we are not reinventing any certification but we reviewed the existing 3rd party certification for chemical formulations”, said Prasad.

Prasad Pant shared that ZDHC InCheck reports are digitally signed by ZDHC, proving authenticity, and providing a universal way for suppliers to check and understand their level of ZDHC MRSL conformance. Moreover, suppliers will get clear results and guidance to improve the quality of their chemical inputs, assure their customers of ZDHC MRSL conformance and grow their business.

To further enable the transformation of the sector towards sustainable chemistry and related environmental performance, the Implementation of HUB will be the vehicle to drive continuous improvements and progress around ZDHC-centric topics, Prasad Pant said.

Prasad Pant cleared about a different number of hazardous groups and said that, “New substance, new findings, new legislation are coming and the substances will be added into the MRSL. ‘Zero’ is the aspirational goal, now it cannot be zero. ZDHC’s backbone is input chemical management if the input chemical is free from harmful substances. Then ultimately, you do not worry about output.”

Sustainability implementation session

On the sustainability implementation session, Tareq Amin, founder, and CEO of Textile Today delivered his keynote speech where he showed different sustainability challenges from economic, environmental and social aspects. He also gave the sustainability implementation way in his presentation.

Tareq Amin delivered keynote speech Sustainability Implementation
Figure 3: Tareq Amin, founder, and CEO of Textile Today, delivered his keynote speech about ‘Sustainability Implementation’.

Tareq Amin said, “In a world where people are struggling every moment to sustain in the current status they are living, the fashion and apparel industry, on which millions of peoples are directly dependent have some responsibilities to the society and its’ elements. Stakeholders like the governments, brands and buyers, consumer right protectors, labor right protectors, community right protectors, trade associations, financial institutions and the factories have their own perspective of sustainability.”

He said, “4.5 million people working here that’s quite a big number. If we invest behind people, we can really generate such an output may be quite a times higher than the other capitals. For example, Turkey, Taiwan, and China are getting more value from a human in the textile section. This should be the transformation to invest behind people.”

He also said, “This is the time to transform this compliance department into the sustainability department. Whatever you do, you must have a sustainability department, and you must have separate responsible people for sustainability. These people should have tools, capacity, and authority to make a change. Then the innovation cycle will move,” he expressed.

Installing a Sustainability Management System (SMS)

This is the idea, putting things in one management system, saying this Tareq Amin highlighted that we have industrial engineering dept, compliance dept, people to take care and so more. But still, we need to have a clear definition from the board level to the group level, what is the role, what we want to achieve. This has to be well defined and well communicated.

Sustainability Management System SMS

He stressed on the sustainability management system. He added, “The team should have the authority and the connectivity with the all other teams or management. The chemical management, resource management, main production team, production management and the entire department will be connected by sustainability management system. Whether we have trained people in the sustainability area to implement sustainability. The team has to be capable and integrated with the central management in the industry.”

He talked about the most critical word ‘Communication’. Our companies do not have a communication policy; communication understanding. They are always behind a number of machines, number of pieces. This is the time to look at the intangible, the soft things and the human capital branding and communication. So, this is not only the brands who are directly selling to the consumers. He hoped that this is the time to make them different from others.

So, this sustainability management system, sustainability management team, and sustainability department will be able to get enough stories for communication and sustainability reporting. Sadly only the top companies are doing sustainability reporting. In Bangladesh, DBL is doing this. Many companies are much better than DBL but they are not being able to report.

Tareq Amin hoped that all sustainability department must have a holistic target and gave importance to providing capacity, tools, authority. Then you can expect them to come up with extensive communication tools, stories to share with brands and final consumers also.

Panelist Samim Rahman, Director, Southwest textile, said, “There are around 18 private universities and also public colleges or universities for the textile education where we learn technical knowledge. But for the sustainable management, it is important to give training to the professionals and mid-level management.”

“For the sustainable business or sustainable turn over in the RMG sector in Bangladesh, first we have set the ethical price for the customers. Unfair competition of price should be stopped, he added.

Another panelist Saiful Alam Mollik said, “As a consumer, we need to change our behavior to give more money for a product which has been manufactured in a sustainable way.”

“For sustainability management and installation, we need to build efficient professionals. In this regard, Textile Today already has taken initiatives through its ‘Textile Today Training’ module and today we have launched certificate course on ‘Sustainability Management’ in collaboration with ERI,” said Tareq Amin.

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