OP-ED

The role of MNCs and G20 in Bangladesh's green economy, sustainability

Several economists and environmentalists believe that the theory of the green economy can be considered the only way to save humanity

The Seoul Summit in 2010 announced that G20 countries would earnestly aim to reduce exploitation, mainly in developing countries; however, this has not been implemented yet.

Hence, most developing countries, including Bangladesh, have not yet implemented the so-called green economy concept.

The capitalists of G20 countries are seriously involved in Bangladeshi readymade garment (RMG) and other informal industries where workers are not well off or those informal industries have not followed the green economy ideologies.

In most developing countries, multinational apparel brands and retailers have production houses and make extensively higher annual revenue from extreme workers' exploitation of those precarious factories where workers often face brutal injuries and deaths.

For example, a global giant multinational corporation (MNC) such as Walmart is generally outsourced from most developing countries, including Bangladesh, where their factories are not compliant.

For example, the Tazreen Fashions fire in 2012 killed at least 112 RMG workers, a non-compliant factory used for Walmart's garment productions.

There was also evidence of subcontracting for global giant clothing brands in the Rana Plaza, the building that collapsed in 2013, killing thousands of innocent workers.

So the commitment of G20 nations to creating green jobs for the people of the world is not getting implemented because Western and European clothing brands and corporations are not doing ethical business in most developing countries, including Bangladesh.

Furthermore, unethical business by multinationals in Bangladesh or elsewhere is evident.

For example, a giant apparel brand like Walmart violates WTO, ILO and UN trade guidelines, which is against the green economy concept and violates the G20 commitments.

However, we do not see any significant action by the UN, ILO, WTO, EU and other influential regulatory organizations imposing any sanctions on multinationals like Walmart or Nike to eradicate the problem of exploitation in their supply chain.

For example, Walmart, a giant American retailer, madea revenue of $595.6 billion for FY22, which is higher than the national GDP of Bangladesh (e.g., the national GDP of Bangladesh in 2021 was $416.26 billion, which is less than 0.02% of the global economy.)

Still, their offshore workers are not better off, especially in Bangladesh.

In addition, Bangladeshi capitalists have substantial ties with global capitalists, and the state patronizes them to run businesses in the name of so-called employment generation by violating the national and international labour code.

Successive governments in Bangladesh have contemptuously ignored the essence of industrial regulation over the last 40 years.

Origins

Bangladesh started following a neoliberal doctrine in the 1980s, and since then, the consecutive governments of Bangladesh have lacked a proper industrial policy.

Still, governments have allowed foreign investments in various informal industries, resulting in local entrepreneurs randomly setting up factories (most of them are non-compliant) in major cities of Bangladesh, such as Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, etc.

As a result, extensive migration has occurred in large cities in Bangladesh, living in poor urban slums with misery.

My research investigation shows that environmental and air pollution in the capital city of Dhaka is a significant issue primarily resulting from the pressures of migrant populations, which is contrary to the concept of green and substantial ecological protection policies.

Although the big cities are significantly overcrowded, the agricultural land of Bangladesh is also occupied by global and local capitalists.

Without following a proper industrial plan, most corporations construct buildings and factories on green land where crops are grown.

However, the national government has no decisive action to stop all this and save the country's cropland and eco-parks.

On the other hand, extensive agricultural land occupations and exploitations can damage local habitats or increase wind erosion and dust, which results in human exposure to particles and various chemicals -- against the concept of a green environment.

In addition, extreme land pollution can accelerate or increase the spread of invasive species.

However, the national government and local and international capitalists are still unaware of the protection of green land in Bangladesh, which is against the UN and ILO conventions.

However, if not more, there will be at least 170 million people living in Bangladesh.

Hence, crop production is essential for such a large population, even though the land area in Bangladesh is very small.

At the same time, most farmers are using fertilizers and harmful chemicals on their land, destroying the productivity of the harvested land for a long time.

Nevertheless, organic or natural farmyard manure is the best way to increase crop production without pesticides and fertilizers.

This unique blend of green manure, bone meal and compost meal that only uses manure from organic sources is known as organic farming.

Most importantly, for the Bangladesh government, it is essential to promote growth through rural environmental infrastructure.

Comparison

For example, the central government of India focuses on social inclusion by introducing new schemes.

Schemes like  National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) focus on improving the living conditions of the marginalized sections of society.

A part of the Labour Act, the scheme touches the lives of casual labourers in rural areas and ensures their "right to work."

The Bangladesh government should have created an act like this to ensure the rural green economy of the nation.

Sustainable green industrial planning in Bangladesh is essential.

Many nations have already started the green industrial project.

For example, Curitiba is known as the sustainable city of Brazil, and this state is well known for its urban development.

The world's greenest city promotes sustainable living in Curitiba.

It has 400 square kilometres of forest land, and offers various programs to encourage individuals to recycle waste materials.

Bangladesh is facing a significant problem managing excessive waste materials as the country has yet to find a substantial green waste management process.

It is a severe issue for the green environment, so the national government must find a considerable solution to manage its enormous waste of the country and make it an energy resource.

Waste produced from daily uses can be turned into something good, such as electricity, heat or fuel, for example. 

With the proper policy and investments, the national government could produce energy by converting solid waste into gas.

Waste materials can also generate electricity by burning solid waste found in landfills.

A community must have a waste-to-energy facility that burns waste and converts chemical energy into thermal energy. 

Some emerging nations, e.g., China and developing countries, e.g., Kenya, focus on the renewable energy model.

For example,  China's energy plans target the green sector.

It has allocated enormous sums for developing green forests and setting up solar and hydropower plants.

In addition, its seven-year energy plan will also focus on green investment and employment models in China.

Once known as the most significant contributor to global warming, China's current focus on clean energy has been appreciated.

Another example of green or renewable energy in Kenya is the feed-in tariff model.

The feed-in tariff model has been designed to improve production in the renewable energy sector.

Thus, the Kenyan government offers long-term energy contracts to renewable energy producers.

As a result, these energy sectors further accelerate the economy's growth by following the green model.

The Bangladesh government and their other business and social stakeholders can follow China and Kenya's model to create more green forests and renewable energy, mainly by investing in solar energy, which would be a perfect way to solve the country's energy problem.

Going green

Green and sustainable urbanization is essential for Bangladesh.

Green residential, commercial and factory buildings have proper arrangements for gardening on their roofs, and the blend of healthy objects with a touch of tradition allows people to experiment with traditional lifestyles.

In addition, the new urban dwellings should have been designed with designated mini recycling arenas and proper ventilation systems that make them better than conventional homes.

The concept of green finance is often an overused and confusing term that combines various terms like investments, loans, loans and bonds under a single umbrella.

Not every financial institution in the world has turned into the process of investing capital in green industries, and G20 nations' commitment to creating green industries still remains a promise.

However, a country like Bangladesh must consider eco-investing in companies promoting sustainable practices.

Green finance combines the world of finance with environmental sustainability.

For example, in many countries like China, public and private investments are made in green finance to install solar energy panels and hydroelectric plants.

Therefore, through green and corruption-free financing, loans must be extended for installing solar panels and developing wind power plants in Bangladesh's factories and houses.

Finally, becoming a nation that follows green economy dogma is no longer an option; it has become necessary for the modern age and the nation's sustainability.

The green economy's main objective is to integrate various concepts under a single umbrella to have a sustainable economy and environment.

Moreover, several economists and environmentalists believe that the theory of the green economy can be considered the only way to save humanity.

When painted in shades of green, the world looks different, it is sustainable, it is inclusive, and it has the power to ward off the demon of global warming.

Hence, while the government must be politically committed to the nation's green economy, it is also imperative for multinationals and G20 countries to provide substantial technical and financial support to those like Bangladesh to become a green nation and for its future sustainability. 

The author is an Australian academic and human rights activist