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The Rana Plaza and other such incidents put Bangladesh in the spotlight. A whole lot of global brands thereafter pitched in with steps to ensure a clean supply chain, especially during production. However, the murmurs never cease. What is BGMEA and other organisations doing to ensure that the country reclaims its top spot as a clean manufacturing hub? How do you view the progress achieved on this front?
Rana Plaza is an unfortunate part of our history, but we have taken it as our turning point. Since the accident, we have taken unprecedented steps to reform the industry factory by factory. Global brands and retailers and development partners like the International Labour Organization (ILO) have joined hands with our government and industry associations for this reform process. The joint efforts have already helped complete inspections in all of our export-oriented garment factories in the area of structural, electrical and fire safety. Risky factories were closed down, and the remaining factories are carrying out remediation activities. So our success is unprecedented and recognised globally. We are the most transparent country in the world in workplace safety standards, as the inspection reports of each of our factories are publicly accessible on the internet. Moreover, our factories are now taking leadership in environmental sustainability. In all, 67 apparel factories in Bangladesh are LEED certified by USGBC and 220 more have registered for certification already. We have 13 Platinum LEED certified textile and apparel factories in Bangladesh, which include the world's highest ranking factories. BGMEA is supporting and promoting the good practices in our member factories.
Furthermore, the global brands who compete with each other every day, joined hands together to work for the greater cause of sustainability through the formation of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety (Accord) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance). This is unique in the world, and this reveals the commitment of global brands on Bangladesh. The progress has been impressive so far. All the stakeholders are cooperating with each other. The remediation activities in all factories may be completed by the end of 2018.
What is the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Bangladesh textiles and apparel sector? Which are the main countries investing in Bangladesh?
One of the amazing features of Bangladesh's apparel industry is that more than 95 per cent investors are local. We have a number of foreign investors as well, both in textiles and apparel. We encourage foreign investments in the area of high value added items, non-traditional apparel items and in the primary textile industry, especially woven textiles.
Bangladesh has set RMG export target of $50 billion by 2021. What steps are being taken to achieve this target?
We are mainly focusing on product and market diversification, moving to highend items gradually. Infrastructure and skills development are our priorities. The government of Bangladesh under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working to create a more favourable and investment-friendly environment in the country and to reduce the cost of doing business.
Bangladesh is expected to get a developing nation status by 2021, thereby losing the export benefits it currently enjoys being a least-developed nation. What all benefits is the county likely to lose, and how will it affect the country's garment industry?
This is a hypothetical question.
Sustainability is now the buzzword. What is being done to make chemical, water and waste management a priority for the Bangladeshi government and entrepreneurs?
We are engaged with our government, buyers and development partners and running a number of projects like Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT) and Towards Resource Efficiency & Environmental Sustainability (TREES). We are also organising knowledge sessions and promoting sustainability issues like water, energy and chemical management among others.
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