With climate change seen as the most pressing global challenge over the next decade, more consumers are rewarding businesses that place sustainability at the top of their corporate agenda.
This scrutiny has been especially heavy in the textiles industry, which is traditionally seen as a major contributor to global warming. The sector emits an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, surpassing emissions from airlines and maritime industries combined.
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh’s Beximco has emerged as a global leader in sustainable fashion manufacturing. Founded 26 years ago, the company counts Amazon, Bershka, Marks & Spencer, Michael Kors, Pull & Bear, Target and Zara among its customers.
Amid rising demand for ethically-produced clothes, the company has put sustainability at the heart of its operations by employing a range of advanced manufacturing and supply chain management solutions—from using recycled materials to adopting an on demand manufacturing model—to meet the changing needs of its customers.
With its investments in sustainable and financially viable projects, Beximco is at the forefront of the eco fashion trend. At the same time, it also supports the production of garments that are affordable, durable, comfortable and aesthetically appealing to the customer.
“Every single brand and retailer that we work with has told us that sustainable manufacturing is an absolute necessity going forward,” says Syed Naved Husain, Group Director and CEO of Beximco. “They’ve made it clear that vendors who cannot supply ethical and sustainable clothing will eventually have a very limited role in this industry.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards sustainable products. A survey conducted by McKinsey in April 2020 showed that some 67% of consumers consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important factor when making purchases.
“We have some really exciting and revolutionary plans that will reduce the time, energy and effort to bring products to market and at the same time ensure the welfare of our communities and value chain partners.”
– A. S. F. RAHMAN, GROUP CHAIRMAN OF BEXIMCO
Integrated Value Chain
Beximco’s achievement in sustainable production is also helping Bangladesh shed its image as a low cost manufacturing hub, and leading the country’s progress to integrate into more important global value chains.
“Beximco recognizes that the traditional approach to textile and garment production is no longer tenable,” says A. S. F. Rahman, Group Chairman of Beximco. “Integrating new technologies, embracing workplace innovations, adopting sustainable efficiencies are but a few of the critical changes that must be made to meet the changing demands of customers and markets.”
Today, the Dhaka-based company is considered one of the most prominent eco-friendly fashion manufacturers in the region. “We are proud to have made significant advances and progress in the area of sustainability,” says Rahman, “We have some really exciting and revolutionary plans that will reduce the time, energy and effort to bring products to market and at the same time ensure the welfare of our communities and value chain partners.”
Recycling With Recover
Recycling waste materials to manufacture high quality yarns is at the core of Beximco’s sustainability initiatives. Beximco has partnered with Recover Textile Systems—a Spanish recycling technology company that specialises in turning textile waste into premium fibers—to become the world’s largest collector and recycler of textile waste and a specialized spinner of high quality recycled yarn.
Recover collects and sorts textile waste from around the world to produce new fibers that contain recycled cotton, blended with other recycled materials such as polyester from plastic water bottles. The high percentage of cotton means that such yarn can be used in the production of high-end textiles.
The results are impressive. Recover’s process score is 1 on the Higg Index—the best possible score on the industry standard for measuring environmental sustainability. In comparison, garments made from conventional cotton have a Higg score of around 70, while organic cotton has a score of around 45.
“All products made out of Recover textiles can be recycled at the end of their lives, returning into the system for a new production loop,” says Husain.
Beximco is also pioneering the use of sustainable washing processes that are not only more friendly to the environment, but able to achieve a look and feel that matches consumers’ preferences, while remaining cost competitive.
The conventional washing process for denim fabrics uses large amounts of fresh water, chemicals and energy, as well as produces waste and downstream effluents. To address these issues, Beximco collaborated with leading sustainability tech players such as Jeanologia and Tonello to modify the washing process.
Beximco adopted Jeanologia’s 5.0 laundry technologies such as ozone to replace bleach, lasers to replace chemicals and smart foam to replace water to produce jeans. As a result, the company’s fresh water usage declined to a mere 1 liter per garment from 70 liters using conventional washing methods. That results to savings of as much as 900 million gallons of water per year.
On Demand Manufacturing
In another effort to eliminate waste, Beximco is working with e-commerce giant Amazon to implement an on demand model of manufacturing that’s more economical and sustainable.
While traditional clothing manufacturing is done months in advance of sales, an on demand product is only made after the sale is booked. The product is then shipped in just a few days. As a result, fashion brands will no longer have costly inventories to dispose of at the end of each season.
“In an on demand model, Beximco’s customers do not need to order thousands of something that they may never sell,” says Husain. “There’s no inventory, no fabric wastage and no warehousing.”
With on demand manufacturing raising the pressure to deliver products under a constrained timeline, Beximco has worked to optimize every process to speed up production without sacrificing quality.
Higher Efficiency Cuts Waste
Other sustainability projects Beximco has undertaken are aimed at increasing the company’s productivity and reducing waste by updating its technology and equipment.
For instance, the company upgraded its effluent treatment plant with new technology from the U.S. That’s necessary to protect the environment as effluent treatment prevents the discharge of hazardous substances that can contaminate ground water and cause illnesses and other issues.
Beximco’s commitment to sustainability is also evident at its headquarters in Beximco Industrial Park—a green campus spread across 400 acres (1,600 square kilometers) in Gazipur, an industrial district north of Dhaka. Local residents call the campus the “Lungs of Gazipur” since it’s home to over 100,000 trees and an organic farm. The entire park has been awarded LEED Green certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The company’s numerous sustainability efforts are one of the key measures of success that are considered by the company. “The role of sustainability is a fundamental KPI we have defined linked to long term success,” says Rahman. “It should not only be measured from an economic dimension but from a social and environmental one in terms of the well-being of people and the health of our planet.”
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