Employment & Entrepreneurship

Sustainable and profitable: Bangladesh’s jute entrepreneurs

Fatiha Islam

Young entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in rebuilding the economy as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. At the IKEA Foundation, we believe this should happen in a sustainable way, that benefits both people and planet.

In Bangladesh, young women are setting up jute businesses that are good for the environment and their communities. They are supported by our partner Youth Business International (YBI) and their local member organisation Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpcentre (B’YEAH).

Jute is a traditional crop of Bangladesh with many environmental benefits. It is biodegradable, cleanses the air, needs less fertiliser than other crops and improves soil texture. Higher demand for jute also creates employment and boosts the rural economy.

Young jute entrepreneur

In 2017, Fatiha Islam (24) founded an enterprise called JUCOF, manufacturing jute bags, gifts and clothing. Within just two years JUCOF grew from employing just one person to 15 employees.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fatiha had to shut down her business for two months and all her orders were cancelled. However, things started looking up again when she was introduced to YBI member B’YEAH and attended training in e-commerce as part of the programme we fund.

Following the training, Fatiha started advertising and selling her products online. She managed to get new orders from the buyers who had originally cancelled on her.

Decent work training

She also took part in B’YEAH’s decent work training, which is part of the same programme. The training helped her put health and safety measures in place in her factory and ensure proper documentation and written contracts for all her employees.

Fatiha is working on opening her first showroom very soon as well as increasing her exports. Her goal is to reduce the use of plastic materials by promoting jute.

She says: “I sell Jute products to reduce the use of plastic materials. This will be a blessing for the environment. I believe it is our duty to ensure that the next generation can live a safe and healthy life in a clean environment.”