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SEVEN WAYS THE READY MADE GARMENT INDUSTRY CAN FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

More and more factory owners are now embracing energy and resource saving techniques as they recognise it is good for the environment and also has a quick ROI. PHOTO: AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

More and more factory owners are now embracing energy and resource saving techniques as they recognise it is good for the environment and also has a quick ROI. PHOTO: AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

Todays guest blog features Motasfiz Uddin Founder of the Sustainable Apparel Forum, with an article on a topic at the top of every manufacturers agenda!! Climate Change and how by the choices we make, we can all make a positive impact…

The world’s attention has been focused on the UN Climate Summit in New York that ended on September 23.

This significant event has brought into light the problems of climate change and is backed by many of the world’s leading organisations, which are seeking to raise awareness about the urgency to take effective actions to address this spiralling crisis.

Many of the climate issues the world is facing today are caused by global manufacturing supply chains, and the clothing and garment industry is no exception. The good news is there is plenty that the ready-made garment (RMG) manufacturers in Bangladesh can now do to cut their carbon footprints and contribute to the fight against climate change.

Here are seven steps the RMG manufacturers can take to help combat global warming:

Move to renewable energy

This is probably the most urgent issue to address as we all know that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel are one of the most significant triggers of climate change. Around the world, the electricity sector generates as much as a third of global warming emissions. Most of those emissions come from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. In contrast, most renewable energy sources produce little or global warming emissions. Even when one includes the life cycle emissions of clean energy (such as the emissions from each stage of a technology’s life), the global warming emissions associated with renewable energy are minimal. Therefore, RMG factories should all be looking at areas of their operations where they can shift to renewable energies. There is plenty of support available for factory owners looking to go down this route and the industry has already made good progress in this area.

Consider energy saving measures

Not all businesses can make the shift to renewable energy overnight as investment costs for RMG factory owners can be discouraging. But even for those using non-renewable energy sources there are measures that they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Resource efficiency upgrades—more modern boilers, for instance—can drastically cut energy consumption and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions. More and more factory owners are now embracing energy and resource saving techniques as they recognise it is good for the environment and also has a quick ROI. For instance, if an RMG factory uses less water, via water saving techniques, this means it will require less energy to heat that water.

Rethink the issue of waste

Trash and by-products have become a major problem in today’s culture, and this is a serious problem in the global apparel industry, particularly in supply chains. Waste that ends up in landfill produces methane which is a greenhouse gas. To reduce emissions from waste, RMG factories can look at implementing factory-wide recycling schemes. This requires business owners to think more smartly and creatively about the issue of waste—to stop seeing it as a negative and start seeing it as a resource. This leads us to our next point which is …

Adopting a circular economy framework

In line with the Climate Week, a new report has been released by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation which said that shifting to renewable energy and other energy saving resources do not do enough to tackle climate change and that the circular economy is also vitally important. This means making better use of existing waste streams by, for instance, launching recycled apparel lines—a direction some manufacturers are moving towards. A circular economy is a more efficient, which in turn is an economy that produces less CO2 emissions.

Ensuring energy efficient lighting wherever possible

This is low hanging fruit as far as most factories are concerned. Changing lighting across a building to more energy efficient options such as LED can make a big difference; it provides a quick win, and the effects will be lasting. There are plenty of technologies available, such as sensors which automatically ensure lights are switched off if movement ceases. Dimmable light is another method to ensure lights aren’t at their brightest maximum when not required. RMG factories in Bangladesh are clearly embracing these and other energy saving techniques as the country now has the highest number of LEED accredited factories in the world.

Engagement

This is actually the most important factor here—getting all your team behind these issue. Employees—senior management downwards—need to know why certain things are happening the way they are in order to cooperate and embrace more sustainable ways of working, which will have less impact on the environment. Steps need to be taken to raise awareness about sustainability issues so that the whole company and its employees are on board and have buy-in. The most sustainable businesses are those where there is a sustainability culture at the top and this permeates throughout the organisation, so that ALL the staff embrace sustainability measures and engage in what is essentially good housekeeping.

Choose environmentally conscious vendors

This is not an obvious step, but one which all RMG factories in Bangladesh should now be considering. Factory owners might be doing their bit, but are the businesses they purchase from doing the same? Ask questions of vendors—about the packaging they use, whether they have a sustainability strategy and whether they are taking care to reduce their impact on the environment. By rewarding vendors that take a sustainable approach, it’s possible to create a virtuous circle.