Events Updates | News & Insights | Sustainability

RMG Bangladesh in international media

Published: January 3, 2023

The inaugural Made in Bangladesh Week (MIBW), which ended on Friday, succeeded in highlighting the many benefits that this sourcing nation offers in addition to putting Bangladesh on the map. Thus, the occasion transformed the “Made in Bangladesh” label—previously associated with rapid fashion and low-cost labor—into a symbol of high quality and modern factories.

Not a modest accomplishment that both history buffs and European manufacturers will recognise. After all, British manufacturers—not German ones—created the label “Made in Germany” in the late 19th century to set their high-quality items apart from cheap imports, particularly those from Germany. The “Made in Germany” logo is still proudly displayed to denote excellence since German manufacturers improved throughout time, made investments in technology and high-quality materials, and the rest is history.

Humble beginnings

Returning to Bangladesh, the ready-made garment (RMG) business has grown significantly, particularly during the past 20 years: In 2002, the nation exported RMGs for roughly 5 billion US dollars. By 2011, that amount had increased to 14.6 billion US dollars, and in just eight years, it had more than quadrupled to 33 billion US dollars, with a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent. The industry currently employs 4.4 million people, the majority of whom are women, and will be responsible for RMG exports of 42.6 billion in fiscal year 2021–2022.

According to Ahmad Kaikaus, principal assistant to the prime minister, “predictions for Bangladesh were catastrophic when it started [after independence in 1971]: The country was anticipated to take 100 years to reach 1,000 US dollars per capita income but it has done well.” He also emphasised the sharp decline in foreign aid, which was at 90% and is currently at 2%. “Earlier, we were not on an equal footing, but today we are; Bangladesh is a partner on an equal footing.”

Sourcing hub

Bangladesh is crucial for sourcing. On the first day of the Dhaka Apparel Summit, keynote speaker Anne-Laure Descours, chief sourcing officer of Puma, said, “I first arrived in 1994, and it has been near to my heart for 30 years. She emphasised that although the nation was originally recognised as the “cheapest site and for the least rates,” the globe has changed significantly in the last 10 years, with young customers in particular being extremely worried about climate change and appreciative of green industries.

Descours believes that transparency and circularity are the best course of action, saying, “I cannot emphasise enough how essential this topic is,” particularly the change to viewing trash as a resource. She emphasised the nation’s ongoing manufacturing transformation and expressed hope that more tier 2 solutions will be implemented in the future, such as local and national material procurement to eliminate the need for fabric imports.
She also emphasised the importance of data as the foundation of all businesses and offered shared collaboration among stakeholders as her main conclusion and advice.

The Bangladesh Denim Expo and the Dhaka Apparel Expo are two examples. The former featured the full denim value chain, including fabric, finishes, washes, and accessories. It also offered technical training, and it was so crowded with visitors that the doors occasionally had to be closed.

The latter brought together RMG producers, fabrics and yarn makers, accessories, machinery, chemical suppliers, and international buyers to display the most recent innovations in Bangladeshi clothing, textiles, and related products and technologies.


Numerous technical presentations and panel discussions addressed the subject of sustainability. During the fourth session of the Dhaka Apparel Summit, Syed Naved Husain, group director and CEO of Beximco, the largest conglomerate in Bangladesh, shared his vision of “making Bangladesh the biggest hub of recycling,” and Zuena Aziz, principal coordinator of SDG affairs of the Prime Minister’s Office, discussed how the government is combating water pollution. She also emphasised how Bangladesh is in a good position to advance this development “without harming the environment” because to its 176 green clothing factories.

Avedis Seferian, president and chief executive officer of WRAP, highlighted the danger of “audit fatigue” in Bangladesh in this context. In light of the excessive number of audits that disrupt production and waste resources, he declared, “It is genuine and indicates how unsustainable we have become.”
While there doesn’t seem to be agreement on less quantifiable requirements like safety and responsibility at the moment, any one should suffice. He claimed that multiple audits, not multiple audit standards, were the cause of audit weariness.

Similar to this, Roger Hubert, managing director of the recently created RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), the Bangladesh Accord’s replacement, emphasised the need for standardised norms with regard to employee training. He stated that “we need additional training,” but given the number of commercial and developmental organisations now involved, there is a risk of overlap and duplication of costs. He believed that buyers should be involved by paying for 80% of the audits and inspections.

Associated British Foods Plc., the parent company of Primark, Katherine Stewart, group director of corporate responsibility, focused on sustainable cotton and a project in partnership with material science firm Recover that was started five years ago and presently involves 15,000 farmers. When it comes to the volume of recycled cotton we can utilise, she issued a warning: “There is a limit to what we can achieve.” Instead, a short-, mid-, and long-term strategy should consider what can be done with fibres. An old Primark t-shirt ought to be transformed into a new one, she remarked. Because of Bangladesh’s “can-do” spirit, her experience there has been “a touching one.”

LDC graduation

The Dhaka Apparel Summit’s first session on the second day was devoted to Bangladesh’s upcoming departure from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category in November 2026 and the ensuing “Impediments and Way Forward.” Bangladesh’s extended five-year transition period (instead of the usual three years) was mentioned by Sharifa Khan, secretary of the economic relations division of the Bangladeshi ministry of finance. She urged consumers and developmental partners to be kind and support the milestone by using ethical purchasing practises, such as not cancelling orders, for example.

Bangladesh should avoid falling into the middle-income trap, according to Nazneen Ahmed, country economist at the UNDP, in order to avoid losing its preferential treatment and privileges and to pass from low to medium income status as anticipated by 2031. She emphasised that “this graduation should be sustainable” in order for Bangladesh to “continue with its growth and become a high-income country by 2040,” which has been difficult for many nations in a similar situation.

According to Riaz Hamidullah, ambassador at the Bangladeshi embassy in the Netherlands, Bangladesh needs to break free from its linear thinking (and general conception of global supply chains) and find a way to stay ahead of rivals like India, where 100 companies voluntarily disclosed their environmental practises, or Sri Lanka’s “Garments without Guilt” initiative. He believes that “Hashtag design thinking,” “technology, innovation, and design thinking will be essential.”

Garment workers

Aside from one brave young woman, the photos of employees were conspicuously missing from MIBW’s normally well-trafficked halls, despite being ubiquitous outside the halls with large posters and catchy slogans (see images).
Former textile worker Sabina Yeasmin described her path from seamstress to student at the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chittagong during the third session of day two of the Dhaka Apparel Summit, which was devoted to “Ensuring Workers Well-Being.”

She received a scholarship from AUW that allowed her to attend for free for five years while also receiving payment for her wage to help support her family. When I started working in a factory five years ago, I “gave up on my ambitions, but I never gave up on life, and I took the opportunity when it presented itself,” recalls Yeasmin. She has since launched her own initiative, a group that supports other ladies who are similar to her.
The young woman, who learned impeccable English in just two short years as part of her training and addressed a huge international audience with confidence, said, “Thousands more need education… there may be 4,000 more Sabinas.”

The Ethical Trading Initiative’s executive director, Peter McAllister, concurred that ensuring workers’ physical well-being is insufficient and that well-being extends beyond providing security, canteens, and other amenities.
Workers must participate in this partnership for change, he emphasised, and they must have a seat at the table. A “conventional, transactional paradigm will not work,” the author continued, adding that “the only way employees will prosper is if factories do. New models of production, value, and efficiency are required instead.

The first Sustainability Leadership Award honoured Bangladeshi apparel factories for their best practises in three main categories and numerous subcategories, including environmental excellence, factory setup, innovations in workers’ welfare, and more on November 18. This was the first time that sustainable factories had received such recognition.


Linda Kronjong, president of Amfori, counselled moving away from the supply chain and into the value chain, which is much wider, when discussing the need for responsible business in terms of due diligence. In order to improve outcomes, Amfori connects buyers (many of whom are from Europe) with suppliers, working with approximately 3,000 suppliers in Bangladesh at the moment. She affirmed that “a lot of corporations have stepped up or are ready to step up.”

Sandeep Das, regional director for South Asia and MENAP products at Intertek, added that buyers and suppliers shared responsibility for what was right and what was wrong: “Companies like ours need to go through a hand-holding process with the factories to identify what is acceptable and what is incorrect. Someone needs to cross the bridge with you; you can’t just tell them that they need to.

In conclusion, Made in Bangladesh Week was a remarkable organisational success that brought together global supply chain players. Future editions should place more emphasis on the risks and challenges that lie ahead as well as the involvement of the employees, where the first edition concentrated on establishing the “Made in Bangladesh” mark and all the well-deserved pride that goes along with it. The experience would surely be improved by hearing the voices of more employees. There is a lot to do; we need to set priorities, said keynote speaker Monique Leeuwenburgh, director of sourcing, technology, and sustainability in Clothing & Home, Marks & Spencer London.

Related Posts