Social dialogue on factory floors and improved industrial relations are key aspects required for ensuring sustainability in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector in Bangladesh.
Promoting sustainability in the apparel industry will ensure long-term benefits for the country's economy. Social dialogue is needed for better pricing of apparels, strong supply chains and improved workplace culture.
Garment sector stakeholders, international buyers and development partners on Tuesday said these at the opening ceremony of the Sustainable Apparel Forum 2019 organised at the International Convention City, Bashundhara in the capital.
Bangladesh Apparel Exchange and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) organised the second edition of the summit with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H&M, C&A Foundation and Better Work Bangladesh.
Speakers said ensuring sustainability is not the responsibility of a single party. Rather, it is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders, including buyers, retailers and suppliers.
Addressing the event as the chief guest, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Md Atiqul Islam said any business will not sustain in the long run without ensuring sustainability.
"Buyers should ensure sustainability in their supply chains through their purchase practices," he said.
Having undergone transformation by inspection and remediation with huge investment, Bangladesh's has become a safer apparel industry in the world, said Atiqul Islam, also a former president of the BGMEA.
"We are committed to ensuring safety, wellbeing and dignity [in garment factories]," he added.
State Minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam, as a guest of honour, said emergence of the fourth industrial revolution technologies has changed many conventional business models of this sector.
Meaningful exchange of knowledge can make sustainability easier for the manufacturing excellence across the industry, he said.
"Within the evolving global RMG supply chain, the global brands also require to deliver on their commitments at a similar pace. Their due response is crucial to make the entire industry and the supply chains 'compliant-competitive-caring'," he said.
"Full appreciation and realisation of respective roles and responsibilities can truly sustain the global supply chain in an industry as RMG. This is all the more so in the context of 'Responsible Business conduct' that the global stakeholders pledged to," the junior minister added.
Shahriar Alam expressed his confidence that the ideas and knowledge to be shared in the forum will facilitate the country's journey towards sustainability.
Among others, Bangladesh Apparel Exchange Managing Director Mohiuddin Rubel was present at the event as a special guest, while International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen moderated a plenary discussion on the role of industrial relation for sustainable growth in the RMG sector.
BGMEA Director Professor Mohammad Abdul Momen, worker leader Nazma Akter, Executive Director of Ethical Trading Initiate Peter McAllister and Director of Economic Growth Office of USAID Bangladesh John Smith-Sreen also took part in the discussion.
In the keynote speech, Better Work Bangladesh Country Programme Manager Anne Laure Henry Greard reaffirmed ILO's strong focus on and commitment to driving sustainable change in Bangladesh's garment industry.
"Experience from the Better Work programme across nine countries shows that sustainable changes and improved working conditions across the garment sector benefit workers and their families, eventually driving higher profitability for manufacturers over the time," she said.