Can Bangladesh lead the fashion industry’s environmental revolution?
Technology is an indispensable part of everyday life for billions around the globe.
An increasing number of individuals, even in developing countries, have access to personal technology, such as smartphones, smart watches, and other similar devices. Numerous companies are harnessing the technological revolution to improve their products, and to make them more environmentally-friendly than ever.
Although some doubt exists whether the potential added expense of transitioning to more environmentally-conscious processes and products is smart business, these doubts are unfounded. Indeed, many Bangladeshi companies that work in the fashion industry have realized that sustainable technology can improve their product, reduce costs, and bolster their relationships with millennial consumers who demand environmentally-conscious products.
The only question is whether the local textile industry can continue to integrate sustainable technology into their products and processes. If so, Bangladesh can become even more of a regional and global economic leader.
In partnership with NGOs like Bangladesh Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PaCT) and Solidaridad, clothing factories in Bangladesh have begun utilizing environmentally sustainable production practices. These ventures have helped save energy, water, and other precious natural resources. Many of these projects have also shown the global community that Bangladeshi companies can deliver when they receive investments to improve and upgrade their businesses.
The fashion industry’s technological revolution has also impacted the way companies dye their garments. New technology is enabling new ways of dyeing clothing, which reduces or eliminates the amount of water needed to dye different fabrics. Traditional dyeing processes use large amounts of water and energy, and produce large amounts of pollution. These new technologies, however, can imprint colours directly on the molecular level of the fabric. This makes the dyeing process simpler and more environmentally sustainable.
Many of our local companies are already embracing new dyeing technologies. These sustainable technologies promote a cleaner environment by saving water, an especially crucial resource in Bangladesh. The nation’s current population of over 160 million people is only likely to grow in the coming years, making water conservation critical for enhancing quality of life.
In addition to revolutionizing fabric production processes, technology is changing the way the fashion industry reuses fabric. Many companies are experimenting with ways to create a closed-loop system, in which most or all of the fabric used for an item of clothing is reused for new clothing. These processes have the potential to truly eliminate waste from the garment industry, and be extremely beneficial for both local companies and consumers.
For example, some companies are experimenting with new types of fabrics that microbes or other natural organisms can break down into reusable raw components. Another key innovation in this area is the use of biologically-derived fibres. These bio-fibres can be grown with less energy than traditional fibres, and can often be wholly recycled into their constituent parts.
Local companies can, and should, take advantage of these developments. Growing fabrics in these new ways can help save land for agriculture and other crops, as well as preserving Bangladesh’s fertile soil for the next generation.
Additionally, this type of truly recyclable clothing eliminates landfill waste. If each item of clothing can be completely reused to produce new clothing, consumers will be able to return their used clothing to the manufacturer instead of throwing them away. Being able to recycle clothing and fabrics would help local factories produce even more and better garments, showing the world that Bangladesh is ready to lead the way in sustainability.
Today, many customers, especially millennials, are demanding more economically-conscious and socially responsible clothing. Production of such ethical fashion starts with clothing factories. Many factories have begun using technology to analyze nearly every aspect of their factories, from the production schedule to the ambient building temperature. Optimizing clothing production in this way saves energy while cutting costs.
Garment factories of Bangladesh have already begun incorporating these technologies. The presence of 69 garment factories certified LEED by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), and about 300 more factories in the offing to get the certifications, is the telltale evidence of our apparel industry’s commendable stride towards sustainability.
These new developments, while instrumental in improving individual profiles of the factories, can also help make the apparel industry of Bangladesh as a whole a global leader in sustainability. By investing in sustainable technology, Bangladesh can show both the fashion industry and millennial consumers that it appreciates sustainable fashion.
Indeed, Bangladesh is no stranger to technological innovation. Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus pioneered microfinance and peer-to-peer lending in this country. Bangladesh’s apparel industry too must transform itself, and set an example on how sustainable development goals and business profit motives can work hand in hand to create a better future for all economic sectors and people.
Mostafiz Uddin is the Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) and Bangladesh Denim Expo. He is the Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited.