Best of times... Worst of times... A few positive indicators
The global audience mostly judge Bangladesh in respect of the negatives or wrong reasons. They tend to look at Bangladesh in terms of whatever they can access or they are made known about. That is why, a first-time visitor gets awed as they touch down to Bangladesh. Yes, we have our share of limitations, constraints, challenges – as does most other countries the world over. But, in spite of many negatives we may have, one ought to note the warmth, diligence, resilience, innovation, adaptability that make the Bangladesh people thrive in most densely-populated land on earth. Our people believe in whatever they have. Contrary to whatever is projected, ours is an inclusive and pluralist society, a stable economy, a responsive and responsible state. Bangladesh never faltered on her international commitments. We get battered by cyclone and floods and yet we rise up. The economy continued to grow as steadily as over six percent for a decade, now it is over seven percent. Bangladesh – as a polity, society and economy – is so much different than what it was even a decade back. Tolerance and religious harmony is a sacredly preserved credential of our people. Many often ask about the future that holds for Bangladesh. Actually much beyond the PWC Report that project Bangladesh as the 23rd largest economy by 2030, it would be important to note the youthful people, urbanized landscape, responsible State that Bangladesh would continue to have.
Bangladesh apparel and textile industry has come a long distance. Three and half decades on, thousands of Bangladeshi entrepreneurs and four millions of workers move hand in hand. The State chipped in with needed policy space, enabling environment and incentives. Battling numerous gaps and limitations, Bangladesh apparel (woven, knit, denim) now stand with a tagline of a responsible & ethical industry, driven by safety, dignity and well-being of all. The fact that as many as around 300 apparel factories are processing for LEED Certification should speak of an unparalleled transformation in a low-income economy manufacturing. Needless to say, the industry made significant contribution to women empowerment, social inclusion, addressing inequality over the decades.Even though there has been unease on workers issues, today, entrepreneurs and workers recognize their commensurate roles and responsibilities. There has been incremental appreciation and application of labor rights, environmental issues, social considerations. Workplace safety and structural integrity are all-round reality. At various stages of production transparency, accountability and ethical considerations are expected to emerge big. For instance, voluntary disclosure and green accounting are already growing norms.Sourcing, use & re-use of water in production cycle is a key. Consumers already ask about sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources e.g. water in production process. Focus on substantial increase in water-use efficiency across the sector should be in order. Likewise, all concerned will have to focus on environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes in production, throughout their life cycle. There has to be significant reduction in release of chemicals and wastes to air, water and soil to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and environment.Across politics, business and economy, by 2015, the world has unequivocally agreed on sustainable development. All the countries have pledged on securing ‘shared prosperity’ through shared responsibility. This is the new ethos in production as well as consumption. This is manifest within widely accepted norms, guidelines of Responsible Business Conduct. As much as these are applicable to producers, same should hold good for brands and retailers within the global RMG and textile supply chain. There are certain deeper and systemic issues involving the Brands, Retailers that need to be addressed within the Global Supply Chain. As we speak of responsible and ethical production, we cannot shy away from responsible pricing. Both aspects complete the ‘chain’. Across the chain(s), producers, distributors, brands, ALL must assume respective responsibly. And, if one (i.e. a producer) acts pro-actively or innovates suo moto, market should recognize and reward such. That is how market can demonstrate its bit of responsibility.