Sustainable Apparel Forum seeks to find ‘Sustainability Roadmap’ for factories, says Mostafiz Uddin
The Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) is going to organise the 2nd edition of the Sustainable Apparel Forum in Dhaka on November 5.
The event will be followed by the 11th edition of the Bangladesh Denim Expo at International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB) in Dhaka from November 5 to 6.
Mostafiz Uddin, founder and CEO of the BAE, has recently been featured in the Time magazine. He has highlighted where Bangladesh's ready-made garment (RMG) sector stands in global business sustainability and what needs to be done to take the sector forward.
Also managing director of Bangladesh Denim Expert Ltd, a denim garment and washing plant at Chattogram Export Processing Zone, Mostafiz Uddin has elaborated on the second edition of Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) while talking to Jasim Uddin of The Business Standard.
TBS: How will the 2nd Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) benefit the Bangladesh apparel industry?
Mostafiz Uddin: SAF aims to progress Bangladesh as a responsible sourcing destination on the global map by accelerating the momentum of sustainability within the industry through education, awareness and minimising the knowledge gap.
The objective of the SAF event is to facilitate a meaningful exchange of knowledge to demystify issues surrounding sustainability for the benefit of factories and individuals.
After I organised the first SAF, I realised collaboration is the key to fully promote sustainability in the apparel industry.
Over the last two years, I have collaborated with, and become a member of, the leading international organisations driving sustainability. These organisations include the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Foundation, all of whom will participate in the second edition of the SAF event.
TBS: What do you see as the big challenge in ensuring sustainability in the apparel industry?
Mostafiz Uddin: There is no denying the fact that sustainable and responsible business practices are as important as being competitive in the fashion industry today.
The major challenge in ensuring sustainability is a lack of collaboration within the industry. We cannot overcome the hurdles we face if we are not united and hold on to a collaborative mindset.
The attitude of "I win, you lose" is not relevant in business anymore. The industry needs to adopt an attitude of "win for all" as the theme for the future.
There are many initiatives surrounding sustainability in the apparel industry, but most of these, unfortunately, do not have any link to reality and lack proper coordination.
Collaboration among the existing initiatives is very important for the industry, rather than taking individual initiatives that never fully realise their desired impact.
TBS: How will SAF accelerate the momentum of sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry in future?
Mostafiz Uddin: With the discussions and recommendations made during the second SAF, we will formulate a "Sustainability Roadmap" which will provide clear guidelines to be followed by the industry to accelerate the momentum of sustainability within the country.
We will also organise a series of roundtable meetings round the year to keep the discussions on and drive actions to add pace to the sustainability movement.
TBS: What initiatives have you taken to turn your business sustainable?
Mostafiz Uddin: I believe actions speak louder than words. With this in mind, I have ensured that my factory, Denim Expert Limited, strives to lead by setting examples in our day-to-day activities.
Denim Expert Ltd has become the first Bangladeshi business to join the hugely influential Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). It is also the country's first contributor to the ZDHC Foundation, which is driving improvement in the management of textile chemicals globally.
Denim Expert Ltd has become Bangladesh's first member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We have partnered with the Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PACT) founded by IBAN Netherlands and recently launched our first circular fashion line.
Denim Expert Ltd is also the first Bangladeshi business to provide employment opportunities for the local transgender community and operates a range of programs to support less able-bodied people as well as other minority groups.
TBS: What are the main attractions of the second edition of SAF?
Mostafiz Uddin: At the second SAF event, we will be hosting more than 50 internationally reputed speakers from around the world who will share their perspectives on apparel sustainability.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is organising their High Index Manufacturing Forum for the first time in Bangladesh on November 4, in collaboration with the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF).
Eight institutional research bodies will address issues critical for sustainability at this edition of SAF.
There will be a Sustainability Centre, a stand-alone zone created to allow the apparel industry supply chain to exhibit their green products and initiatives along with technology development companies, solution providers, material innovation companies and other relevant organisations promoting solutions for sustainable apparel manufacturing.
The uniqueness of this 2nd SAF is that more than 40 leading apparel organisations of the world are collaborating in the event, most of which are engaging in a Bangladeshi event for the first time such as United Nations Climate Change, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Apparel Impact Institute to name but a few.
TBS: What are your plans for the SAF event?
Mostafiz Uddin: As I have already mentioned, we are going to formulate a "Sustainability Roadmap" for the Bangladesh apparel industry with the recommendations made at the 2nd edition of SAF event. The progress of this roadmap will be assessed during the next editions of SAF. We have already announced the date for the 3rd Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF) which will be held on November 2, 2020.
TBS: Who can play a key role in promoting sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry and how?
Mostafiz Uddin: I think the government can play a key role in promoting sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry. The private sector, all by itself, cannot make the transition from a waste-based economy to a renewable one. We know this based on the experiences of the past decade where, despite many good intentions from the business community, the linear, wasteful economic model has remained the norm; and the pace of required change has been painfully slow. The only way to ensure effective changes is the public and private sectors working in tandem, hand in hand.
Our government also ensure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are fully embedded into, and aligned with, the national economy. The most effective mechanism for the progress towards the SDGs is through national and international coordination.