Bangladeshi Sustainable Apparel Forum (Ska to Accelerate Apparel Sustainability in Post-Covid


Policy makers, industry leaders, brands’ representatives and fashion campaigners from home and abroad gathered in Dhaka yesterday to accelerate momentum of sustainability in Bangladesh apparel industry.

More than 50 speakers as well as 20 green growth exhibitors from over 20 countries participated in the 3rd edition of Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) organized by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) partnering with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Five plenary sessions on ‘Demystifying Climate Action’, ‘Purchasing Practice’, ‘ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) & Green Finance’, ‘Closing the Loop: Circular Economy in the Fashion Industry’, and ‘Due Diligence and Legislation’ held at the SAF along with an opening plenary and a closing plenary.

Speakers of the SAF include Tipu Munshi, MP, commerce minister of Bangladesh; Md. Atiqul Islam, mayor, Dhaka North City Corporation and former president, BGMEA; H.E. Charles Whiteley, ambassador & head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh;  H.E. Anne Van Leeuwen, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh; H.E. M. Riaz Hamidullah,  ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Faruque Hassan, president, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA); Mohammad Hatem;  executive president, BKMEA; Anna Athanasopoulou, head of unit for social economy & creative industries, European Commission;  Barbara Bijelic, financial sector and regulatory engagement lead centre for responsible business conduct, OECD;  Ian Cronin,  community curator, platform shaping the future of advanced manufacturing & value chains, World Economic Forum; Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, sectors engagement lead, UNFCCC; Pascal Brun, head of sustainability, H&M;  Kim Hellström, Head of green investment supply chain, H&M Group;  Hendrik Alpen, global head of stakeholder engagement & social impact, H&M Group;  Ziaur Rahman, regional country manager production (Bangladesh, Pakistan & Africa), H&M;  Javier Santonja Olcina,  regional head, Bangladesh & Pakistan, Inditex; Zahangir Alam, social labour manager, Bangladesh & Pakistan, Bestseller; Dr Mark Anner, founding director, Center for Global Workers’ Rights and also professor, Penn State University, USA; Ayesha Barenblat, founder and CEO, Remake;  Dr. Najet Draper, vice president research, Better Buying; Gemma Verhoeven,  team lead impact investments, Good Fashion Fund;  Annabel Meurs, head of supply chain transformation, Fair Wear Foundation; and Tuomo Poutiainen,  country director, Bangladesh, ILO.

Senior representatives from globally renowned recycling and renewable energy companies were also in attendance as well as exhibit their sustainability and green technologies, products and solutions at the SAF.

Mostafiz Uddin

Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) Mostafiz Uddin said: “At this year’s SAF we have brought all the fashion stakeholders under one roof to accelerate the momentum of sustainability in Bangladesh apparel industry, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic which has had immense impact on global apparel supply chain. 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?”

In the closing plenary of the SAF commerce minister Tipu Munshi, MP, said: “Bangladesh government is committed to ensuring sustainable growth of Bangladesh apparel industry.”

“I will try my best to help Bangladesh make the transition into a sustainable future,” he added.

Ambassador & head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh H.E. Charles Whiteley said: “It’s vital for Bangladesh to be able to successfully make the transition into a sustainable ecosystem.”

Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of the Netherlands H.E. M. Riaz Hamidullah said: “Promoting Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) in Bangladesh apparel industry is not one party’s cup of tea any more.  We can only ensure prosperity through shared identity.”

In the opening plenary of the SAF, Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation and former President of BGMEA Md. Atiqul Islam said:

“Today building a sustainable, responsible and ethical apparel industry will not only bring benefits for the manufacturers, but also it is also equally beneficial for our economy.”

“We have to keep in mind, that it is not a job that should be defined to only one party. Both the manufacturers and the buyers have to work together for ensuring ethical and sustainable manufacturing,” he added.

Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh H.E. Anne van Leeuwen said: “There has been significant improvements in the apparel industry of Bangladesh as per as safety and sustainability is concerned. However, there is still work to be done to promote sustainability in the sector for which stakeholders’ engagement and collaboration is the key.”

BGMEA president Faruque Hassan said: “Today our clothing factories are not only safer, but also have become more dynamic, modern, energy-efficient and environment-friendly. Bangladesh has by far the highest number of green garment factories in the world. US Green Building Council (USGBC) certified a total of 160 Bangladeshi factories as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), among them 48 are LEED platinum-rated. 40 out of the world’s top 100 garment factories are in Bangladesh. Moreover, 500 more factories are in the pipeline for certification.”

“BGMEA joined the UN Fashion Industry Charter (UNFCCC) with an ambition to reduce GHG emission by 30% till 2030,” he also added.

Stephanie Theirs-Ratcliffe, director of European brands and retailers, Cotton Council International said: “Sustainability is no more an option, it’s a must for the fashion industry now. Cotton Council International is working to ensure the supply of sustainable cotton to the industry.”

There were 12 presentations on important aspects of apparel and textile sustainability at the SAF. The presenters include Ian de Cruz, global director, P4G; Amina Razvi, chief executive officer, Sustainable Apparel Coalition; Lewis Perkins, president, Apparel Impact Institute; Janet Mensink, executive director, Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP); Marie Busck, head of csr & sustainability, DM&T; Mohamad Anis Agung Nugroho, programme manager, Better Work Bangladesh; and  Vic Lau,  customer success manager, Higg.

The Embassy of the Netherlands in Bangladesh was title sponsoring the 3rd SAF; while Cotton Council International was platinum sponsors; Epic Group, Laudes Foundation, Higg and H&M Group were gold sponsors; Better Work Bangladesh and Prime Bank were silver sponsors; and bKash, Brac, Pacific Associates, and Rahimafrooz Solar were bronze sponsors of the event.