Bangladesh should rejoice at the news that seven industrial units of the country have ranked among the top 10 on a list of the world's 25 most environment-friendly factories. Until recently, Bangladesh's readymade garment (RMG) sector had been highly criticised by numerous quarters of the international community before coming under government scrutiny. However, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington-based NGO, is a testimony to Bangladesh's success in ensuring maximum environmental safety of its workplaces.
According to the list - Remi Holdings, the RMG factory in the Adamjee Export Processing Zone (EPZ) of Narayanganj District became the number one environment-friendly factory in the world. Narayanganj's Plummy Fashions became the runners-up. In addition, the country's other industrial units that made it to the list include Vintage Denim (owned by ABA Group), SQ Celsius 2, Genesis Washing, SQ ColBlanc and SQ Birichina. Owners, mangers, employees and workers along with all active stakeholders of these factories deserve applause for their extraordinary achievements. Undoubtedly, their collective effort has lead to a sterling success in protecting the workplace environment, setting an example for others to follow.
Nevertheless, the idea of a "green factory" (with maximum eco-friendly facilities for workers) should cover factories not only in the country's RMG sector but also in other sectors. There are numerous complaints regarding the environmental safety of Bangladesh's other industrial sectors. Meanwhile, owner of one of the top 10 environment-friendly factories commented that the buyers would not pay extra despite the high cost of making a factory environment-friendly. These foreign buyers who are so concerned about the workplace environment are not likely to contribute their shares to an actual commitment in ensuring environmental safety of the factories. Reneging on their commitment is worse than playing a double-standard role.
However, others should learn a great deal from the recent achievements of Bangladeshi factories. Time has come to rectify the distorted image of the country's RMG sector left by Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza factory incidents. The process of upgrading standards of workplace environment in every other sector of the country should start now. After all, those people behind the success of these RMG factories have demonstrated that building and sustaining a green factory are not beyond people's power here. According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), amid a tight scrutiny from the government, most of the Bangladeshi RMG factories now provide for a tolerable workplace environment with adequate humanitarian facilities for workers and staff. Evidently, the US government has lost its justification before declining to grant any GSP facility to the Bangladeshi RMG companies.
Washington never hesitated to express its once-justified concern about the workplace environment in Bangladesh. But it has not asked reluctant buyers there to pay a fair price. This is simply unacceptable. Dhaka should further raise the issue in a dialogue with the US government. The growth of the country's economy rests on the country's RMG sector, one way or the other.
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