Dhaka Apparel Summit this time focused on sustainable RMG industry

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2017-03-03 17:00:00 – Dhaka

The Dhaka Apparel Summit to aid the development of textile and apparel industry in Bangladesh took place as planned on 25th February 2017 at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Sonargaon in the Bangladeshi capital. This year's edition again brought together hundreds of attendees and dozens of speakers, among them the world’s leading experts in their field.

This year's topic was all about establishing a more sustainable apparel supply chain with the specific aim of creating a better future together. Thus, three panel discussions, titled "Business policy & environmen: towards a better Bangladesh", "Collaborative and responsible sourcing for sustainable growth" and "Bangladesh apparel industry: transformation and the road ahead" offered an inter-active approach and the opportunity for a valid exchange of ideas.

Speaking of a better Bangladesh, Shwapna Bhowmick, country head, Marks & Spencer Bangladesh & Myanmar, pointed to the importance of a true partnership between buyers and manufacturers and lauded the support Marks & Spencer has been getting from its suppliers in Bangladesh, its largest sourcing country, whenever the company has been wanting to push the boundaries. This has led to product diversification from swim shorts to denims, a capacity expansion and shorter lead times. Where M&S ordered simple products like basic polo shrts and denims in the beginning, it has now moved up to value-added products like dresses and tailored suit jackets.

Bhowmick also mentioned the true partnership with the workers who are very young, enthusiastic and keen to learn, which is why, in her opinion, business grew in Bangladesh.

Christopher Woodruff, professor of development economics at the University of Oxford, brought up the interesting point that Bangladesh's main competition is not other RMG-producing countries like India and Vietnam but its own booming sector, which is competing for talent. Woodruff said that workers have other opportunities now, hence the sector needs to compete for that talent. Among the solutions he gave were moving women into management roles, better training of the workforce and lower and mid-level managers and competitive wages.

Speaking about Canada's involvement with Bangladesh's RMG sector and the fact that Bangladesh is the second largest source of Canadian merchandise imports in South Asia, Robert Mc Dougall, executive director for South Asia global affairs of the government of Canada, stressed the fact that buyers want assurances about issues such as environment, gender, labour rights and worker health. He emphasized that Canadian buyers want products that meet the demands of their customers and do not tarnish their labels with bad publicity overseas. Buyers also want assurances that their markets and their major sources of goods are stable and dependable.

Many speakers referred to the recent events in Ashulia and worker relations in Bangladesh. In December, Bangladesh took a giant disappointing step back on labour rights. ... Ashulia has damaged Bangladesh's image and reputation as a reliable source for garments, said Marcia Bernicat, US ambassador to Bangladesh.

Thomas Klausen, CEO of Dansk Fashion & Textile, sees vocational and soft skill training as the need of the hour, together with trust and collaboration. He also cautioned against racing for cheap goods, which Bangladesh is currently doing, because of the risk of stagnation. Suppliers and buyers need to change the race to the bottom. Bangladesh should seize the opportunities from existing initiatives. It is already ahead in competing markets and can take a front row in sustainability. Klausen also pointed to the fact that working with busines-driven CSR will often lead to savings.

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