Editorial
5 months ago

Greener RMG industry

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Ever since the start of monitoring the extent of greening compliance by garment manufacturers and exporters in developing countries, the prerequisite has been a subject of unease. The monitors belong to the club of global bigwigs in the clothing and fashion industry. The countries under watch include Bangladesh. One of the largest manufacturers and exporters in the world, the country is now in a transition phase of emerging green. As the requirement is tied to the readymade garments (RMG) factories' manufacture of the clothing products and their export, the country attaches great importance to the issue. Trade experts, however, underscore the imperative of some harmonisation standards regarding the green RMG factories. 

Many of them have been able to gain preliminary access to industrialisation by utilising the sector. The observations were made by panelists at a working session of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) Public Forum 2023 in Geneva on September 14. It was titled 'Green trade measures and their development implications: a focus on the textiles and clothing global value chain'. Obviously, the focus of the session was on the urgent need for addressing the emerging global climate emergency --- achieving net-zero point on carbon emissions in the RMG sector.  Taking part in the session as a panelist, Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), observed that the export-oriented textiles and readymade garment sector was an important driving force for Bangladesh economy as "it is a source of employment generation and foreign exchange earning". Bangladesh has already taken different types of steps for greening the textiles and clothing industry, she told the session about the transition. There are, however, drawbacks which impede the setting up of green factories, including disparate standards set by global brands that do the marketing. In course of her deliberations, Dr Fahmida goes to the roots of a feeling of 'discouragement' caused by the leading global brands' adoption of different standards for similar kinds of clothing items. 

That the confusing situation prevailing among the cynical quarters in the textiles and clothing item exporting countries will lead to a series of disillusionments is implied. Many even might call the lopsided definition of greening and environment-friendliness an instance of double standard. It doesn't bode well. It might dampen the drive for export of many fast developing RMG manufacturing countries. Bangladesh's share in the global clothing export market stood at 7.90 per cent in the last year compared to 6.40 per cent in 2021, statistics available with the WTO show. Bangladesh retained the second position in the clothing export, preceded by China and followed by Vietnam on the global market in 2022.

A Senior Research Fellow with ODI (Overseas Development Institute) in her presentation at the WTO session touched upon the policies and measures taken by three countries -- Bangladesh, Kenya and Vietnam - to make the textile and clothing industries greener. According to her, as there is no market-led path to environmental and social upgrading, public policy frameworks are the key. The new green trade initiative is an opportunity to get upgraded environmentally; Bangladesh and Vietnam have already shown some primary advancement in this regard. Textile waste lately emerged as a problem. As an expert in trade strategy has observed, in the name of second-hand market of clothing, there is a trend of dumping textile and clothing waste mostly from developed countries into the developing ones. A green-compliant one, Bangladesh has reasons to feel discriminated against notwithstanding the fact that it boasts the best and highest number of green RMG factories.

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