Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change although it is one of the lowest carbon emitters in the world. No matter how much we emit, the global catastrophe doesn’t follow any political boundary. With a population of over 160+ million, the unseen consequences of climate change would be devastating.
Bangladesh now stands at its take-off phase of development and envisages emerging as a global economic power by 2030. At this critical juncture, we have no other way but to integrate environmental sustainability within businesses and when it comes to the Bangladesh RMG industry we have many good stories to tell the rest of the world.
As the country’s pioneering export industry, the RMG sector holds the responsibility of running the engine of the country’s economic growth. But while we do it we cannot stay indifferent to the negative externalities of growth, especially when it comes to the environment.
One of the most eminently scientific ways of keeping the balance of growth and sustainability is “green factory building”. These buildings are environment friendly in planning, design, construction and operation, which reduce or eliminate negative impacts, create positive impacts as well as externalities and improve our quality of life through its lifetime.
The green factory building is a commendable effort to amplify the positive and minimise the negative impacts of it throughout its entire life cycle, with foremost concentration in energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection and its effects on the site.
To better acknowledge and further inspire these efforts, the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) version 4.1 acts as an excellent global rating system that rewards best practices and innovations and certifies buildings with different levels of LEED certification. The rating system consists of a total 110 points across seven criteria such as sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and design process, and regional priority credits. Each criterion has a set of parameters with different points, and in order to obtain those points, the green factory building has to meet the requirements of the set parameters.
All points under each criterion are henceforth aggregated to yield an overall performance score. A performance score of 40-49 corresponds with a LEED Certified level, 50-59 corresponds with a LEED Silver, 60-69 corresponds with a LEED Gold, and a score of 80 and above corresponds with a LEED Platinum. A score of 110 implies that the factory building is performing at the highest level and has net zero GHG emissions and pollutant discharge.
LEED certification is a globally recognised accreditation of leadership in sustainability that brings in economic benefits as well as non-economic benefits of environment and health. LEED assists factory owners in cutting down operational costs of their factories.
According to the estimates of 2015-18, LEED certified buildings across the globe have saved $1.2 billion in energy, $149.5 million in water, $715.3 million in maintenance, and $54.2 million in waste.
Green buildings emit greenhouse gases in half the portion of that emitted by conventionally constructed buildings due to water consumption, 48% and 5% less due to solid waste and transportation respectively. These buildings have cleaner air circulation, more access to daylight, less pollution, harm-free chemical paints and finishing, which create a healthier working environment. The improved quality of the environment does not only reduce sufferings of workers with asthma and respiratory allergies, but also illuminates the work spirit and boosts retention rate and productivity.
Meeting our environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals has become a prerequisite for the achievement of leadership in sustainability. LEED in this case provides great assistance in bringing out the most of our practices and innovations in building efficiency, decreasing operational costs, increasing aesthetics and ensuring productivity, comfort, health and wellbeing of the workers.
Currently, we have 144 LEED-certified factories – 39 of them among the world’s top 100. A total of 40 green factories are platinum certified with a performance score of up to 100 points. This achievement has added a new feather to the BGMEA’s sustainability cap and invigorated our stride towards a net zero emissions RMG industry.
Green factory building is a laudable approach of strengthening environmental, social and corporate governance as well as attaining leadership in global business sustainability. Since we are in the driver’s seat of leadership in sustainability among our competing countries, it is our duty to scale up the establishment of green factory buildings and incentivise the private sector’s ESG compliance.
As Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority’s (BEZA) 30,000 acre Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) is taking shape day by day, the RMG industry is gradually moving towards a massive industrial agglomeration and symbiosis.
LEED has globally been proven as a crucial tool for enhancing energy efficiency and reducing smog, water pollution and waste generation in major industrial areas. Therefore, it would be time befitting for us to proliferate the number of green factory buildings in the BSMSN – not only to positively impact the environment by cutting down our ecological footprint, but also to establish a healthy and comfortable working environment for our valuable workers.
Garment manufacturers of Bangladesh have already done an excellent job which is commendable but we are not complacent because the journey to sustainability is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And we have the true potential to be the greenest sourcing destination for the global apparel brands.