Sustainability practices offer $51b business opportunities

Sustainability practices offer $51b business opportunities
Sustainable businesses can unlock new market opportunities worth $51 billion in Bangladesh and $5 trillion in Asia by 2030, according to the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Framework.

The GRI identified seven areas for sustainable business practices by companies: women care, skill development, equal pay, employing with disability, environmental sustainability, product diversification, and innovation.

Based in Amsterdam, the GRI is an international independent standards organisation that helps businesses, governments and other organisations understand and communicate their impacts on issues such as climate change, human rights and corruption.

It produces the Sustainability Reporting Framework that is widely used around the world to enable greater organisational transparency, said Aditi Haldar, director for the GRI South Asia, at a workshop on sustainability reporting at the Amari Hotel in Dhaka.

HSBC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) jointly organised the event in which government officials, garment exporters, merchandisers, sustainability experts, and factory owners participated. Md Abul Kalam Azad, former principal coordinator for SDG affairs at Prime Minister’s Office, said over the last 50 years, the production in the world rose three times and consumption also tripled.

“This is alarming. Now the world is producing 120 percent more than previously. If this continues, the world will not survive,” he said.

However, at the same time the global leaders could not reach a consensus at the COP25, the global climate summit, in Spain this week. “Still, we have to survive,” he said. Azad said Bangladesh needs to take quick preparations to obtain the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status in the European Union as the country is going to lose the existing GSP status when it becomes a developing nation in 2024.

“We need to reskill the people who are losing jobs because of automation,” he said. He urged international clothing retailers and brands to raise the prices of Bangladeshi-made apparel items as local manufacturers have invested a few billion dollars to remediate factories to strengthen workplace safety.

“Moreover, Bangladesh is currently the global champion in green garment factories,” he said.

Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, urged international clothing retailers and brands to do business normally and not to set any condition.

“Bangladesh’s garment sector has improved a lot, but what about the prices?” she asked. On pricing, Huq said there is no level-playing field. Buyers are placing work orders in Myanmar without any condition although the country has been accused of genocide. “Sustainability is not confined to a set of good works -- it is more than that. We have 101 green factories and the world’s top six greenest, platinum-rated factories are located in Bangladesh.”

“We are a leading trade bank and ideally placed to support our customers and other companies as they seek to do business in a more responsible and sustainable way,” said Md Mahbub ur Rahman, deputy CEO and country head of wholesale banking of HSBC Bangladesh.

“As a well-recognised corporate citizen, HSBC acknowledges its role to play towards achieving the SDGs,” he said.

UNDP’s Linda Germanis noted how the partnership between the UNDP and HSBC embodies a key priority for Bangladesh by demonstrating how the market and productive partnerships can create an enabling environment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

HSBC and the UNDP are in their second year of partnership, working together to promote sustainability and unlock business opportunities through achieving the SDGs, the bank said in a press release.

Pallavi Atre, sustainability expert of the GRI South Asia, also spoke. 
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