Apparel Diplomacy Continues to Unlock Potential
Business models and trends followed four decades ago are obviously not the same as they are seen in present time. As business dynamics have been changing over times, companies too are adapting to newer landscape in order to sustain in the competition. If we look at the eventful journey of our RMG industry, we see the sector has gone through myriad challenges and gained strengths and experience while addressing them. Having secured the glorious position as the second largest apparel exporter in the world, Bangladesh’s apparel is now at crossroads – enormous opportunities at one side and a lot of challenges on the other side. While the industry is putting efforts to scale up its capabilities to take up the future challenges, the need for apparel diplomacy is being felt more than ever to unlock our potential, especially at a time when Bangladesh is on the track of graduating from the LDC category which will led changes tariff regime in our exports. In such context, we have to continue our apparel diplomacy so that we can ensure favorable access to our export markets in the post-LDC era.
As part of our efforts to promote the RMG industry and realize untapped potential, I along with Board members of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have recently visited Germany and met with high officials of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Germany is the single biggest export destination for Bangladeshi apparel with more than USD 5 billion of exports last year. The delegation, which was accompanied by Ambassador of Bangladesh to Germany Md. Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, ndc and Md. Saiful Islam, Commercial Counsellor of Bangladesh Embassy in Berlin, included BGMEA Vice President Miran Ali, Directors Barrister Vidiya Amrit Khan, Neela Hosna Ara and Chair of BGMEA Standing Committee on Foreign Mission Cell Shams Mahmud. We held a meeting with Dominik Schnichels, Director General of the Trade Department at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Change, in Germany on June 2. We had discussed the issue of LDC graduation, its implications on the economy of Bangladesh and preparedness to continue journey forward in the post-LDC era. We also talked about the future priorities of the industry to retain its export competitiveness in the global market in the post-LDC era. We apprised Dominik Schnichels of the RMG industry’s paradigm shift in the area of workplace safety and impressive strides in environmental sustainability. BGMEA has pledged to “Green Button Initiative” of the German government.
The “Green Button” initiative is the 1st ever state-owned global seal on environmental sustainability. It looks into all aspects of sustainability of the apparel product. We also briefed him about how the apparel industry of Bangladesh showed remarkable resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic and turned around from the fallout. The meeting concluded with a note of optimism that German government’s friendly support for the betterment of Bangladesh RMG industry will continue in the coming days. We also met with Dr Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development in Berlin on June 3. We discussed possible scope ways of expanding Bangladesh’s trade with Germany and further deepening the relationship between the two countries.
We sought Germany’s support in the continuation of duty-benefit for Bangladesh in the European Union for 10 years after the graduation from LDC to facilitate smoother transition. The BGMEA delegation was invited to take part in a textile round table on the road to sustainability and transparent supply chain, organized by OAV – German Asia-Pacific Business Association, the German importers and the Embassy of Bangladesh in Berlin and hosted by Wünsche Group. In the event we have highlighted our industry’s achievements in the areas of workplace safety, environmental sustainability and workers’ wellbeing and also our future priorities in sustain the growth of the sector. Miran Ali, Vice President, BGMEA; Christian Moritz, Managing Director of Fashion, Wunsche Gruppe; Almut Roessner, Executive Board Member, OAV; Dr. Michael Arretz, CEO, VFI; Christian Ewert, Global Director, TEDD - Trusted Experts on Due Diligence, and Md. Saiful Islam, Commercial Counselor, Embassy of Bangladesh in Berlin, also spoke at the round table. We also visited the headquarters of Miles, a leading German fashion company, in Hamburg. This was the first-ever visit by a delegation from BGMEA to Miles, one of the largest importers of apparels from Bangladesh for the last 25 years. BGMEA President Faruque Hassan requested Miles to strengthen its partnership with their Bangladeshi suppliers in enhancing capabilities, particularly in manufacturing valued-added garments.
BGMEA delegation led by President Faruque Hassan met with Director-General of ILO.
The BGMEA delegation paid a courtesy visit to CEO of BESTSELLER Anders Holch Povlsen in Copenhagen, Denmark. BESTSELLER is one of the world’s largest fashion groups sourcing from Bangladesh. The CEO of BESTSELLER expressed hope that BESTSELLER would increase sourcing garments from Bangladesh. We paid a courtesy visit to Johan Sigsgaard, Global Head of Ocean Products - Senior Vice President and Ms. Camilla Jain Holtse, Vice President, Head of Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs at A.P. Moller – Maersk, at the headquarters of Maersk in Copenhagen, Denmark. We called upon Maersk to operate direct shipping from Bangladesh on international routes, especially to Europe. Mohammad Bakhtiar Rana, Associate Professor of International Business and Strategy, International Business Centre, Aalborg University, Denmark hosted a networking dinner in honor of the BGMEA delegation in Copenhagen. We discussed the “Circular Economy in Bangladesh’s Apparel Industry (CREATE)” project which will provide us with research-based knowledge and policy recommendations and strategies that BGMEA, the government, and European brands can consider in creating a green circular ecosystem in Bangladesh which will be connected to global apparel value chain, and eventually help us to closing the loop locally. We also met with thought leaders of Copenhagen Business School (CBS) including Gavin Bridge, Professor, University of Durham, Gary Gereffi, Duke University (Visiting Professor of CBS), Martin Skrydstrup, Associate Professor, Department of Management, Society and Communication CBS, Søren Jeppesen, Associate Professor at CBS, SMEs, CSR, Entrepreneurship and Employment, Peter Lund-Thomsen, Ph.D. Professor, Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainability in Developing Countries, CBS in Denmark. The Copenhagen Business School in connection with an ongoing project on global value chains and climate change organized this joint dialogue to understand about status quo, strategic plans and ongoing activities of the Bangladesh apparel industry. We discussed the advancement of the industry in the area of sustainability in recent times.
Industry has recently been engaged in a number of new (national-level and international-level) initiatives including LEED factories, the international Sustainable Terms of Trade Initiative, RMG sustainability, UN fashion industry charter for Climate Action. During our tour in Europe, we have had a meeting with Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization at the ILO headquarters in Geneva on May 31 where we emphasized the need for fair prices to make the apparel industry more sustainable, positively impacting the well-being of garment workers. Production costs in garment manufacturing have gone up due to increase in prices of yarn, chemicals and other raw materials in the global supply chain and shipping charges, so it’s important that prices offered by buyers should reflect the reality and rationality. We are highly optimistic that our diplomatic efforts will help to strengthen engagement with our stakeholders and unlock potential of the RMG industry of Bangladesh.
Faruque Hassan is the President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).