To achieve circularity in industries, stakeholders must unite and double the growth rate, rather than the pollution rate, which would also help unlock Bangladesh economy’s next growth transition.
They were speaking at the plenary sessions at the first edition of the Bangladesh Circular Economy Summit, organized by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange in collaboration with Laudes Foundation, P4G, GIZ, Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh and H&M Group.
Bernd Spanier, deputy head of delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said Bangladesh should be the largest example of a circular economy.
Bangladesh is the second largest producer of the RMG products, meaning it is also the second largest producer of the apparel waste, he also said.
He remarked that through recycling, reusing and circularity, the growth should be doubled than the pollution rate.
“For circularity, the EU wants to help Bangladesh by knowledge sharing, technology transformation. Events like the circular economy summit should be arranged more,” he added.
Anne Van Leeuwen, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Bangladesh, said that Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in economy and social development indexes.
The country has the opportunity to be a leader in the circular economy too, he remarked.
“(Bangladesh’s) RMG sector is the biggest contributor of the economy. Higher prices will guarantee the favourable conditions. In this regard, buyers should be responsible in their purchasing practices. The impact of the purchasing factors is on the incentives of their suppliers to be living wages to ensure,” he added.
Leyla Ertur, head of sustainability at H&M Group, said: “The fashion industry needed to accelerate its transformation towards circularity as the way forward to solve the biggest challenges we face, not only companies but societies in general, such as climate change and biodiversity loss.”
“We need to join forces to build a circular fashion ecosystem and Bangladesh is unique as the country with the world’s largest share of pre-consumer textile waste readily available for recycling,” she further commented.
Bangladesh has a great potential to attract investments from local and foreign investors to scale up the production of high-value recycled fibers from pre-consumer waste, she also said.
“We have to work together to achieve circularity goals. In this regard, investing in research and development should be increased,” she added.
Bangladesh is the second largest producer of RMG products and they have a role to play in this change.
“H&M is now working on second-hand clothing, repairing and recycling,” she added.
Edimon Ginting, country director, Bangladesh Resident Mission, Asian Development Bank, said that RMG is one of the top polluters, having growth in one hand while pollution in another hand, which needs to be balanced.
In this regard, ADB will assist Bangladesh. Bangladesh has to focus on waste management like waste to energy.
Bangladesh has to formulate policy regarding sustainability and circularity.
“In this interconnected world, no one can do anything alone, partnership is mandatory. ADB would be happy to be partnered with businesses, industries, and countries,” he added.
Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation Md Atiqul Islam said that 3Rs – reduce, recycle and reuse – are the key to sustainability.
Moreover, extended product or producer responsibility as stipulated by the EU is going to be mandatory for apparel producers in Bangladesh. So, the importance of promoting circular fashion in the country cannot be overstated, he added.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, special envoy to Prime Minister of Bangladesh (Environment & Climate Change) and chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) said that in traditional and linear economy, people produce, consume and throw away — an unsustainable concept.
“We need to make the shift from linear to circular economy to keep resources in use for as long as possible, and extract and harvest the maximum value from the products whilst in use. For that, business cases for circularity have to be win-win for manufacturers and buyers,” he added.
He also said that the partnership between the government and the industry is also important.
“We have to think beyond CSR as it is not only the way of sustainability. The business case for sustainability must be very strong. We have to make strong commercial sense,” he added.
He also said that they have brands like H&M there and it has a very important role to play in the global context.
“You (global buyers) are pushing Bangladeshi industries for sustainability, which is fine. But then when it comes to prices, you should pay fairly when the industry switches to sustainability,” he added.
Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange Mostafiz Uddin said that Bangladesh Circular Economy Summit aims to find out the opportunities for the shift from the linear to circular business model and foster collaborations among the stakeholders to promote a circular economy in the country.
On the sideline of the event, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Riaz Hamidullah said carbon footprint maintenance would be mandatory in the coming days if that industry produced for the export market or domestic market.
After getting the status of a middle-income country it would not be a choice for any industry as it would be exposed everywhere, adding that he said that time domestic market manufacturers will face challenges to source raw materials.
“Our entrepreneurs should be proactive to maintain all best practices if they want to survive in business. Entrepreneurs should realize that it is not any buyers mandate but it comes from your consumers’ individual sobering choices,” he added.