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Buyers demand led to sustainable garment factories in Bangladesh

Shefali Akter, seven years back resigned after a year working at a garment factory near Bangladesh’s capital due to heavy workload and poor salary which further compelled her to return back to her rural home in northern Bangladesh. However, few years later when she visited to the garment factory region west of Dhaka with her husband, the conditions at some factories drastically change in a positive way.

Currently employeed at the Snowtex Group plant, Shefali (26-year-old) earns 13,500 taka ($1,350) a month along with extra pay for overtime, a nutritious free lunch and a day off every week. The well-ventilated factory with solar panels installed installed, which further reduced the energy costs by half. Other facilities include rainwater storage facilities and measures to reduce waste have also dropped water consumption by 30%, factory officials mentioned. The company’s vegetation grounds has been heavily planted with trees and other vegetables which offers the employees the chance to buy inexpensive organic tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and red amaranth.

Although, Bangladesh’s garment factories have been known for long for the production of low-cost garments often with harsh working conditions but with the increasing international pressure for more green and sustainable clothing production, the scenario is slowly changing.

186 factories certified as green by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard, up from three in 2014 in Bangladesh. 62 of them have been accredited as platinum, 110 of them have gold rating and the rest 10 has  silver rating. There is a significant  progress towards reducing carbon emissions, water and energy use, waste, making transport and materials more sustainable,  Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association stated. Health of the workers and the quality of indoor work environments has vividly improved.

Business analysts reported after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory which the demise of more than 1130 people in 2013, the factory owners faced tremendous foreign and domestic criticism which forced them to enhance their efforts to provide a safer working environment. This has also led to the creation of more  environmentally friendly factories. Today, Bangladesh has the highest number of eco-friendly factories among the world’s garment exporting countries, according to the BGMEA.

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