The Changemaker

By Munira Fidai

Despite being little more than a dot on the map of the world, Bangladesh is known for its garments sector across the globe. However, the recognition comes with its own problems. At a time when effects of climate changes shake the world every day, Bangladesh grapples with dirty rivers and other garment production processes that hinder the environment. Socially conscious stakeholders in the industry are few and far between, and one such denim manufacturer, Mostafiz Uddin has been making waves across the globe with his environmentally conscientious ways

Managing Director of Chattogram based export company Denim Expert, Mostafiz has many environmental accolades and honourable mentions to his name. UK based, 134-years old fashion magazine, Drapers, awarded him the title of “Sustainable Fashion Champion” at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021. The award recognises efforts taken to reduce the environmental degradation that occurs due to garments production and create fair working conditions for the labour associated with the processes.

His company also received a special mention by the World Economic Forum in 2020, for its “New Champion” award category, acknowledging their exemplary leadership in the fields of sustainability and inclusivity in the garments supply chain. The young achiever was the first to contribute from Bangladesh to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Foundation and the first denim producing company of the country to enter the UN Fashion Industry Charter (UNFCCC) for Climate Action. The charter provides a game plan for the fashion industry to encourage communication and activities on climate change.

(In the photo: Mostafiz Uddin)

Mostafiz is the founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange and Denim Expo that aims to connect manufacturers, buyers and policymakers to catalyse sustainability in the country’s RMG supply chains. As such, his campaign for the rights of Bangladeshi suppliers, in the face of cancelled and unpaid orders during the pandemic did not go unnoticed by the higher authorities in the business. “During the pandemic, I was vocal about the issue of buyer-supplier relationships and, in speaking out, I wanted to champion the cause of suppliers all over the world,” said Mostafiz. He mentioned that many workers often remain silent, even when they work in unsafe environments or when they get paid unfairly for their labours, for fear of backlash.

Rivet 50, an annual index of the most powerful leaders in strengthening and promoting the global business of producing and marketing denim named Mostafiz in their prestigious list last year, a few years after his first mention in 2018.

The pandemic had put a stop to the Sustainable Apparel Forum (SAF), organised by Mostafiz Uddin for the last three years. Luckily, the event restarted its operations in May this year and welcomed more than 50 speakers and 20 exhibitors from more than 20 countries to discuss and speed up sustainability in the Bangladesh apparel industry. The event, organized by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) in partnership with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA), in its first event, set supply chain standards for all its exhibitors. This meant that they needed to submit proof of their compliance with industry standards. The other trade show organisers quickly followed suit. After the pressures of the global pandemic on the supply chain worldwide, this year’s SAF brought all stakeholders under one roof to refuel the broken momentum of sustainability in the country’s garments industry and get stakeholders to walk the talk.

“It’s high time to explore Bangladesh. It is high time that ‘Made in Bangladesh’ is felt with pride and innovation. This is the opportunity and promise to the other nations as buyers and investors”
~ Mostafiz Uddin

In his capacity as the CEO of Denim Expo, Mostafiz has a mammoth task ahead of him now as he launches a week-long event in November, in collaboration with the BGMEA, to showcase the world class apparel manufacturing hub that the country has become, as well as to highlight the sustainability efforts of the Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers. The country has taken commendable strides in the right direction over the last decade, in terms of workplace safety, environmental, sustainability and compliance issues and plans to take the success further by pursuing growth and excellence, scouting new areas of opportunity, modernising processes and facilitating technical upgradation. The country also wishes to prioritise its workers’ health, education and well-being.

The Made in Bangladesh Week debuts on the 12th of November and runs on until the 18th, intending to bring stakeholders from around the world and engage them in 17 events, from expos to fashion runways, conferences, panel discussions, photo exhibitions and factory tours. There will also be an awards ceremony held during this time, to applaud sustainability in fashion processes, and the global launch of the BGMEA Innovation Centre.

“We are breaking new ground with this seminal event. With fashion sourcing teams and other executives facing constant demands on the time, we wanted to provide a series of physical shows, exhibitions, seminars, networking opportunities, factory tours and much more, all in one location over the course of a few days”, says Mostafiz Uddin. The event is set to hold over a thousand people from Bangladesh and abroad, and include key stakeholders from the industry such as garment and textile producers, trading bodies, policymakers and regulators, economists, embassies and journalists.

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