The global textile industry is in a state of influx and is increasingly turning more ecologically sensitive with time. In fact it can be said that this is the time when the industry is most conscious as far as sustainability is concerned. The green movement is being lead by leading brands, NGOs, Governments and consumers who are now looking for innovative ideas and solutions for sustainability in textiles. Bangladesh has the largest apparel export industry in South Asia and, at 6.4 percent, the largest market share of global apparel exports among South Asian countries. The apparel industry is extremely prominent in the country’s economy, accounting for 83 percent of total exports. In 2015, GOTS organized the first International GOTS Conference in India with the theme ‘Strong Partnerships for Success’. This was a huge success and was attended by 250 people from 12 countries and the second edition concluded recently in Bangladesh. And it is towards this end that a National Seminar on GOTS Certification – Business Case for Sustainability with Organic Textiles was held recently at Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the country with the 5th highest number of GOTS certified facilities worldwide. Today, out of the more than 3,800 facilities GOTS certified worldwide, more than 400 are in this country. In his welcome address, Sumit Gupta, GOTS Representative in Bangladesh & India appreciated Bangladesh Textile Industry for their perseverance and consistent efforts to achieve both quality and quantity in their products and exports. The industry has been successful in maintaining consistent growth in their export numbers from last several years. In fact Sumit mentioned the ambitious target of local textile industry to achieve the figure of 50 BN USD in readymade garments exports and encouraged the industry to use sustainability and GOTS as a tool to help them achieve this goal.
The Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) is the stringent voluntary global standard for the entire post-harvest processing (including spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing) of apparel and home textiles made with organic fibre (such as organic cotton and organic wool), and includes both environmental and social criteria. Key provisions include a ban on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), highly hazardous chemicals (such as azo dyes and formaldehyde), and child labour, while requiring strong social compliance management systems and strict waste water treatment practices. GOTS was developed by leading international standard setters – Organic Trade Association (U.S.), Japan Organic Cotton Association, International Association Natural Textile Industry (Germany), and Soil Association (UK) which formed an International Working Group to define globally-recognised requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles. GOTS is a non-profit operation. For more information on the Global Organic Textile Standard, please see www.global-standard.org. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a not for profit organisation based in Germany with Regional Representatives the major sales markets USA/Canada, Germany/Austria/Switzerland, Japan, United Kingdom and in the important processing countries China, India, Bangladesh and Turkey. The Standard – GOTS – is recognised and endorsed by IFOAM – Organics International. The Standard has been developed with close multi-stakeholder engagement in a transparent way that meets ISEAL recommended best practice. At the end of 2015, more than 3,800 facilities were certified to GOTS in 68 countries. Globally, more than 1 Million people are working in GOTS certified facilities.
The GOTS national seminar for the organic textile industry in Bangladesh has the theme ‘Business Case for Sustainability with Organic Textiles’. “In last few years, the brands’ and manufacturers’ focus on compliances has significantly increased. Our seminar will show feasible solutions for the journey of Bangladesh textile industry towards sustainable textile processing and manufacturing”, says Sumit. The event was attended by representatives of brands, senior management of manufacturers and exporters, professionals from field of compliance, regulation, quality assurance, green chemistry and chemical management and technical experts along with media and trade associations. The conference was seen as an opportunity where all attendees benefit by means of gathering new knowledge and insights in the fields of holistic environmentally and socially responsible textile processing and gain a better understanding of related problems and possible solutions. Speakers from leading brands and various experts spoke about the Business Case for Sustainability with Organic Textiles, best practices in manufacturing, social and environment issues. Rahul Bhajekar, GOTS Director Standards Development & Quality Assurance made a presentation and moderating a session. There was also a panel discussion on challenges and opportunities in a sustainable textile supply chain.
Four sessions of the conference addressed the various dimensions of GOTS as an instrument of sustainable supply chain management. In the first session, Business Case for Sustainability with Organic Textiles, the speakers statements included emphasis on benefits from GOTS including better worker retention, higher productivity, and investments in sustainability leading to financial benefits. Key results included commitments from brands on and off the dais to increase their share of GOTS certified organic textiles in their respective supply chains. Session 2 on Quality Assurance through GOTS Certification saw the experts share views on common non-compliances and also gave examples of best practices prevalent in the local industry. Key results included need to create more training and awareness among staff and workers for better implementation of standards at the workplace. Session 3 which was on Leading the Way to Best Practices was a versatile session where participants spoke about labelling requirements, developing a chemical management system in dye houses and initiatives of the Bangladesh Government to cultivate organic cotton in the country. Participants became aware of latest developments in respective fields and learned to implement them in their respective sites. Session 4 discussed the challenges in Sustainable Supply Chain and Opportunities with GOTS. In this final session, panellists shared their experiences about implementing sustainable practices in their respective businesses. Importance of sustainability was stressed again and all agreed that though sometimes challenging, sustainable textile production, compliant with international standards like GOTS, is the way to go for long term business gains.
India is a significant exporter of organic cotton yarn and woven fabrics to Bangladesh. Bangladesh incidentally is the second largest exporter of readymade garments in the world which indicates that this is a large export market for India. Also global textile brands have committed to increasing the organic cotton consumption and Indian exporters must try to grab this opportunity. In fact India and Bangladesh have a complimentary relationship to a large extent as several Indian units are setting up shop in Bangladesh. Also R&D on new styles is far quicker as it is possible to import fabrics in three days as compared to 10 days in India. Bangladesh is now an attractive destination for Indian readymade garment manufacturers as well as the country offers ease of doing business and importing-exporting is faster. India’s garment exports stagnate at $17 billion a year and Bangladesh’s apparel exports are growing at double digits and are likely to touch $27 billion this year. India’s garment exports were $15.49 billion between April and February 2015-16, up only 1.5 per cent over the corresponding period last year. Bangladesh clocked $18.12 billion in apparel exports between July 2015 and February 2016, growing by 9.52 per cent over the corresponding period last year. For the past four months, its exports have been between $2.2 billion and $2.6 billion per month. A bilateral agreement with European Union, which links foreign investment from EU to duty-free exports of garments from India, can grow exports to Europe 3-4 times to $24 billion-$26 billion in three years, from $9 billion today.
This story appeared in the Dec-2016 issue of Apparel India magazine here: Event & Report