AKH Group chairman Delwar Hossain, managing director Md Shamsul Alam and deputy managing director Md Abul Kashem and USGBC representative Mahendra Jayalath along with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed hold aloft the LEED gold certificate that was handed over to the group at Dhamrai on Saturday. Western diplomats sang the praise of the transformation as one of Bangladesh’s LEED-certified echo-friendly garment factory-AKH Eco Apparels Ltd-had a formal launch Saturday. Owners said the unit has got built-in mechanisms to ensure safe workplace, attract more customers and sustainable business with the branding of image of the country’s main export sector. The unit, located at Dhamrai by the side of Dhaka-Aricha highway on a 13-acre land, is one the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified in gold category by the US Green Building Council. The certificate was also handed over to the company at the inaugural ceremony. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed inaugurated the factory, a sister concern of AKH Group. Foreign diplomats from the EU, the US, Japan and Germany Pierre Mayaudon, Marcia S B Bernicat, Masato Watanabe and Thomas Prinz respectively were among others present on the occasion. BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman, FBCCI senior vice president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, and AKH Group chairman Delwar Hossain, managing director Shamsul Alam and deputy managing director Abul Kashem, among others, spoke. Starting business in 1997 with a total of 300 workers and shipments worth $1.3 million, now the group has set a target of earning $250 million within 2016. The turnover was $209 million in 2015. The newly constructed four-storied factory, having 480,000sft constructed area and 60 per cent open space and 14 wide staircases to access and exit for safe working environment, will employ some 4,500 workers in 48 sewing lines. Rainwater storage and use, wastewater managing as well as recycling and reusing, reducing carbon emission, use of efficient and renewable energy, and use of heat-resistant and carbon emission-free building materials are a few of the major features of this green garment project. The group is producing knit, woven and fleece items for buyers from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Japan and India, including JC Penny, H&M, Tchibo, Gap and Uniqlo. The Tk 1.50 billion project is one of the first gold-rated green factories in woven segment in the country, Mr Alam claimed. He said the new unit will add about $70 to $80 million worth of export earnings and the total workforce will increase to 20,000 from the existing 18,000. A green factory has to be purely compliant from use of raw material, design approval and manufacturing, Mr Alam said, adding: “Buyers put importance on safety compliance and environment and these are also demand of the time.” Being echo-friendly and green facility give customers as they want to know from where the products are coming, he said A green factory also helps in reducing carbon emissions and branding the image of the country, he told the function. Speaking at the launching ceremony the minister said, “Many people misunderstood us after the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza building collapse. During the last two and a half years, there were no such accidents. “We are trying our best to comply with the structural, fire and electrical integrity of the garment factory. But the structural ones need time,” he said. The commerce minister said more green factories are coming up. Referring to duty-free facility in Australia, Japan, India and China, he expressed his hope that Bangladeshi-made products would enjoy the same facility in the US soon. Bangladesh’s export to the US market is increasing despite suspension of GSP, he told the function, adding that the total export earnings would reach $33.5 billion in the current fiscal year. AKH is addressing key local challenges through environment-friendly and efficient use of resources like water, energy and recycling and reuse of them, Mr Mayaudon said. “We are convinced all are happening in AKH,” the envoy added. Referring to the Sustainability Compact, he stressed completion of factory remediation. “Go forward, if necessary with our support,” he said, terming the day as the pride for AKH and Bangladesh’s RMG industry. “We are here because we recognize the importance of the garment sector for the future of Bangladesh and because we want to work together to show that having a safe factory, with empowered workers and a green facility can mean good business,” Ms Bernicat told her business audience. The opening of this facility illustrated transformation of the RMG sector that is happening in Bangladesh, she said, adding that the future is of interest not only for Bangladesh but for the US and many other countries. “Consumers and governments in importing countries continue to watch as the garment sector here works to transform itself into a good new story,” the US ambassador said. The AKH Group chairman, however, stressed the need of immediate supply of gas for the industry. Mr Mohiuddin sought financial support from foreign partners in constructing such green factories.