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Dhaka Tribune

RMG exports worth $27bn may be lost due to climate change

Apparel workers in Bangladesh surveyed in 2023 noted that workplace heat has been considerably higher in recent years

Update : 29 Feb 2024, 03:55 PM

Bangladesh could lose apparel export earnings of nearly $27 billion and 250,000 jobs by 2030 due to climate-induced disruptions, a global study projected.

The study conducted by Cornell University and Schroders highlighted the threat posed by extreme heat and flooding to the global apparel industry and suggested immediate action to address these challenges.

Mapped in Bangladesh and Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations Global Labor Institute on Wednesday jointly unveiled the findings on "Climate Resilience and Fashion’s Costs of Adaptation" in an event held at Lakeshore Hotel in the capital Dhaka on Wednesday.

The study focused on production hubs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Vietnam and it calculated climate-driven losses over $65 billion in export earnings and nearly 1 million jobs by 2030 in the four countries.

Together, these four represented 18% of global apparel exports in 2021, the report said.

According to the study, apparel workers in Bangladesh surveyed in 2023 noted that workplace heat has been considerably higher in recent years.

Workers in Bangladesh apparel factories reported that they were docked pay even if they were a few minutes late due to transport hassles or were denied paid leave if they fell sick.

The report found that workers missed three full days of work per month due to heat- and flood-related illness in the hottest and rainiest quarter of the year.

Those absences can mean losses of Tk1,200 – 1,500 a month, or more than 10% of their income in the highest-cost months of the year.

The study said that the workers interviewed for this report estimated spending Tk3,500 for medicine and Tk2,000 for electricity at home in the hottest months when fans have to run constantly to allow them to sleep.

Jason Judd, executive director of GLI, presented the study’s findings on the impacts of extreme heat and flooding on apparel production hubs in key countries of the global supply chain.

He emphasized the need for investors to engage with apparel companies and their stakeholders, highlighting the current gap in risk management strategies that often overlook adaptation measures.

The study also examined the supply chain footprint of six global apparel brands, showing the impact of extreme weather conditions on workers and manufacturers.

Sheikh HM Mustafiz, managing director of Cute Dress Industry Ltd, said that apparel sector entrepreneurs in Bangladesh invested huge sums in establishing green factories and that would help to reduce temperature.

Nazma Akter, executive director of Awaj Foundation, said that to produce low price denim and tee-shirts, Bangladeshi factory owners were destroying nature and paying low wages to workers.

She said that inequality between workers and factory owners was also affecting the environment.

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