Almost 100 per cent of the factories hired workers or employees from the local community from entry to top-levels depending on the job description, the survey found

Bangladeshi apparel makers are aligning their production process with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to attain the targets within the stipulated time frame, according to a recent survey.

Titled “A Pathway to Manage Private Sector Impact on Bangladesh National Priority Indicators (NPIs) and SDGs,” the survey was conducted on 47 factories from the woven, sweater, and knitwear sectors.

Conducted jointly by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the survey report was unveiled on Sunday. Factories involved in the survey were supported on sustainability reporting by SR Asia Bangladesh.

The survey focused on nine SDGs including poverty, good health and wellbeing, quality education, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, responsible consumption, and production and climate action.

To attain the goal of eliminating poverty, in fiscal 2019-20, the participating 47 factories employed 44,064 workers, of which 17,250 were male and 26,814 were female, the report findings showed.

Almost 100 per cent of the factories hired workers or employees from the local community from entry to top-levels depending on the job description, the survey found.

About 38 per cent of the factories run local community development programmes on boosting financial literacy, promoting fair price shops that contribute to lower costs of living, subsidising sanitary napkins for workers, etc.

For ensuring good health and wellbeing of the workers, the factories are consistently investing in and improving retention of women employees after maternity, the report reads.

The average retention rate increased by 3 per cent infiscal 2018-19 and by 7 per cent in fiscal 2019-20, despite the challenges that the industry faced in the previous fiscal year.

In line with SDG 4 on quality education, all of the factories are investing in vocational training programmes to upgrade employee skills and facilitate their career progression.

To comply with the goal of clean water and sanitisation, 15 per cent of factories use recycled water in the production process or in sanitation facilities, while 24 per cent factories practice harvesting rainwater for gardening, washing cars or for sanitation.

In making the apparel factories eco-friendly, in the last two years, the sector saw a reduction in electricity consumption sourced from conventional energy of 17 per cent; 37 per cent of the factories surveyed used solar energy.

For developing infrastructure and innovation, 24 per cent of the factories made significant infrastructure investments that added value to the communities where they are operating.

In the last two fiscal years, the surveyed factories made investments of Tk 2.75 crore for innovation and infrastructural development.

Meanwhile, 41 per cent of the factories collaborated with buyers on cleaner production and supply chain efficiency. Examples include recycled raw materials increasing at a constant ratio of 2 per cent each year.

About 42 per cent of the factories set goals to reduce waste consumption in the next five to 10 years in the range of 5 per cent to 15 per cent, and 34 per cent of them already have either a “re-use” or a “recycle” waste practice.

Furthermore, in the past three years, plastic consumption decreased by an average of 30 per cent among the factories, the survey found.

To tackle climate change action, 42 per cent of the factories set goals to bring down greenhouse gas emissions between 5 per cent and 25 per cent in the next five to 10 years.

On their way to achieving the targets, 25 per cent of them reduced their emissions by 6 per cent in fiscal 2018-19, and 39 per cent of factories reduced their emissions by 18 per cent in fiscal 2019-20.

Besides the SDGs, the survey also looked at the impact of the pandemic and factory owners’ response to address the crisis.

Some 24 per cent of the factories reported that some of their workers were or are affected by Covid-19.

And all of the factories introduced special Occupational Health Safety (OHS) packages in their premises to combat Covid-19, and among them, 32 per cent said that some workers were affected by Covid-19.

Employees who were affected by Covid-19 returned to work within an average of 25 days, the report reads.

Due to losses incurred by Covid-19, about 9 per cent of the factories had to fire or furlough workers; they said that they compensated, remunerated and provided allowances for these workers as per the labour law.

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