2019-11-06 17:58:10 BdST

Apparel sector seeks low cost finance to face 4IR challenges


The country's apparel sector entrepreneurs require more financing at a competitive rate to make the industry socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, speakers said at a programme on Tuesday.

They said the garments sector should be transformed with technologies linked to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) to make the business sustainable by strengthening its position in the global competition.

The observations were made at the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) - 2019 jointly organised by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in the city.

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Md Atiqul Islam addressed the inaugural session as the chief guest while State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam spoke as the guest of honour with Managing Director of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) Mohiuddin Rubel in the chair.

High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh Benoit Prefontaite and head of sustainability at Global Production of H&M Group Pierre Borjesson spoke at the event as special guests.

Mr. Atiqul, also a former president of BGMEA, said: "To make the readymade garments (RMG) sector socially sustainable, the industry owners, buyers and the government are very committed to ensuring workers' safety and rights as well as their wellbeing and dignity."

Mentioning that no business will prosper without a sustainability plan, he said that climate change is the biggest impediment towards the advancement of the country's apparel industry and its future sustainability.

Though Bangladesh is one of the least per capita carbon-emitting countries, Mr. Atiqul said, the country is leading in the list of green industries around the world with 101 LEED-certified factories and more than 500 in the pipeline.

"In terms of economic sustainability, we are unusually silent despite being agreed to the fact that making a factory safe for working, making it socially and environmentally compliant, huge investment is needed. But entrepreneurs are hardly getting financing to do so at a competitive cost," he said.

Bangladesh needs more investment in the manufacturing industries to progress in line with the technologies of 4IR, he added.

Referring to the country's US$ 34 billion export earnings from RMG last fiscal year, he said Bangladesh has set an earnings target of $ 50 billion from the sector by 2021. "It's not over-ambitious but the journey isn't going to be that easy as well."

The state minister said the contemporary textile and RMG sector have been going through major changes with the emergence of technologies linked to the 4IR, changing many conventional models of business in the sector.

Stating that it is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders to make the industry sustainable, he said, adding that meaningful exchange of knowledge can make sustainability easier for the manufacturing process across the garments industry.

Referring to Bangladesh as the second-largest apparel exporter in the world, Canadian High Commissioner said that the continuity of this success will depend on the commitment of the stakeholders in finding ways to make the industry more sustainable.

Despite making progress in many aspects, the Canadian buyers and customers want to see more improvement in Bangladesh's RMG sector especially in the areas of factory inspection, workers' safety and fairness of labour practices, he added.

On the sidelines, five-panel discussions were held throughout the day on human, transparency, water, purchasing practice and climate change issues.

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