GIZ through its regional FABRIC project co-hosted a three-day hybrid conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia in August 2022 in order to foster collaboration and strengthen regional knowledge exchange for greater social, environmental and economic sustainability in the textile and garment sector.
During the first two days of the event, members of the STAR network, the first inter-Asian network of manufacturer associations had the opportunity for regional knowledge exchange and to discuss responsible purchasing practices during a working group session of the Sustainable Terms of Trade Initiative (STTI). Associations from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam engaged in hybrid workshops and discussion. The ‘Asian Dialogues for Greener Production’ conference on day three focused on environmental aspects of production and brought together an international audience of brands, manufacturers, textile industry professionals, civil society, and government bodies to cultivate regional, sector-specific dialogue. Workshops and panel discussions covered a variety of topics, such as “powering production with solar”, “new approaches on financing greener production”, “the value of environmental data” and “pre-consumer textile waste recycling in production countries”.
During the closing panel on ‘’partnership and dialogue on eye-level’’, the ‘’fishbowl’’ method allowed members of the audience to join the conversation and take an empty seat online and on stage to ask questions and make comments. This enabled manufacturers, brands and government bodies to get into direct conversation. As a response to the question on how to achieve the right balance between collaborating but maintaining competition, Mr. Ken Loo from the Cambodian garment producing association GMAC highlighted the importance of associations and networks like the STAR network as a tool for regional collaboration and development. ‘’When the STAR network started, I said, there is no conflict amongst the associations. Individually, our members compete against one another, and that’s why it would be difficult for the individual enterprise to participate actively and genuinely in any collaboration because they are competitors. But the respective groupings, we are not competitors, and we need to represent the interest of our members. They have similar problems and vision, collectively you have a common agenda.’’ Peter Ford, Green Investment Programme Specialist at H&M Group added, ‘’in an average factory, there are multiple brands sourcing from the same factory. The competition might happen in the high street, but it shouldn’t happen on key environmental and sustainability metrics.’’
The hybrid format of the event enabled participants and speakers from more than 20 countries to exchange in the event. Although organizing a hybrid event in Cambodia has its challenges, including finding a venue with suitable technical equipment, stable internet connection of speakers and travel arrangements during COVID times, the conference can be considered a huge success. The participants were excited to exchange face to face and enjoyed discussions and networking over coffee and in workshops. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from speakers and participants.
The recordings of the event are available on the Asia Garment Hub.
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