Implementing sustainable clean energy practices in the garment industry will make the Kingdom an attractive and competitive investment destination, according to the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

GGGI Cambodia country representative Karolien Caser-Diez made the remarks during a European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia Breakfast Talk on January 14 under the theme “How can European brands meet other global climate goals in Cambodia?”

The event brought together development partners working in the field of sustainable energy alongside representatives from Adidas and the H&M Group, a member of RE100 – the global initiative for 100 per cent renewable energy.

Caser-Diez represented Switch Garment, an EU SWITCH-Asia programme jointly implemented by GGGI, Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity (Geres) and the Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia (GMAC).

She engaged with brands manufacturing in Cambodia about the challenges they face in reaching their climate goals.

Switch Garment promotes sustainable energy practices in Cambodia’s garment industry, which employs more than 800,000 people and drives economic growth.

GMAC and partners officially launched a green-tech, clean-energy Switch Garment project in September last year.

“Factories that we engage with are starting to see that greening equals competitiveness. Thanks to initiatives like the RE100, factories understand that being green is a strategic benefit and can help them secure contracts with international brands,” Caser-Diez explained.

According to GGGI’s press statement, RE100 joins together some of the world’s most influential businesses, including major fashion brands.

In their 2020 Annual Report, RE100 stated that 42 per cent of new members are from the Asia-Pacific region, showing that although it has some of the most challenging markets for businesses to source renewable energy, it also presents some of the biggest opportunities for green investment and growth.

Peter Ford, environmental sustainability officer for the H&M Group in Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, outlined practical challenges of meeting renewable energy targets in Cambodia.

“It is going to be difficult to meet RE100 targets in an area that is almost entirely coal-powered,” Peter noted in reference to Cambodia’s recent uptake of coal power.

“Our [H&M Group’s] global targets are very clear: climate neutral by 2030 and climate positive by 2040. Countries that can work with us to meet those goals instantly become more attractive.”

Climate commitments by major brands signal an urgent need for change in the Cambodian garment industry. With international brands under pressure to meet climate targets, nations that can facilitate this will have a competitive advantage, GGGI asserted.

Adidas’s Matthew Armstrong urged enterprises to see this as an opportunity for growth: “Will brands grow and invest more if Cambodia strengthens its grid towards green energy? The answer there is a resounding ‘yes’.

“‘Made in Cambodia’ is a brand. Take this as an opportunity to make this a better brand that we can be proud of,” he said.

Beyond meeting climate targets, the event highlighted the potential and demand for green jobs in Cambodia. GGGI’s economic modeling found that increasing resource efficiency in the nation’s key manufacturing industries could create half a million jobs by 2030.