Consumption is the process by which goods and services are put to final use by people. Consumption is at the end of the line of economic activities that starts with an evaluation of available resources and proceeds through production of goods and services among people. The effect of this consumption, including depletion of resources and generation of waste as well as enhancement of human survival and flourishing, determines the resource base for the next round of economic activities. Taking this into account, what can Bangladesh do to grow without compromising future generations?
Last 3 years ECOLEBAN, a Project funded by European Commission (under SwitchAsia Program), has been aiming at enhancing the resource efficiency and sustainability of the leather sector in Bangladesh throughout the whole value chain of the leather related products such as, leather, footwear and other leather goods.
The leather industry is a fast growing and vital component of Bangladesh economy, being the second highest foreign exchange earners after readymade garments. The industry is export orientated with Europe, America and some Asian countries being the main export markets. However, the leather sector is very polluting and causes harmful impacts both on the environment and human health. In addition, most of the leather industries in Bangladesh are situated in densely populated city areas, where people, mainly from the low-income group, are continuously exposed to poisonous chemicals and toxic wastes.
That´s why European Commission, through ECOLEBAN Project, among other EU SwitchAsia Projects, are trying to implement in Bangladesh a Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) practice both in industries as well as at all levels of the society.
SCP aims at “doing more and better with less,” increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality of life. It involves different stakeholders, but the only effective way for production to change its values and practices is under consumer demand, as is already happening in North America and Europe, although some Asian countries have already taken more than considerable efforts in this regard (S. Korea, Japan, China and Philippines for example).
One of the clearest examples nowadays to explain the success of SCP is the increasingly common existence of sustainable products. Eco labeled products can help the countries to make their manufacturing sector green and offer its consumers a wider range of environmentally friendly products and services.
In this regard, one of the most important initiatives that have been implemented by ECOLEBAN Project is the design and development of a leather footwear ecolabel standard (ECOLEBAN Footwear), providing consumers with adequate information on its benefits and promoting its opportunities within the leather sector.
Eco-labeling has a number of major benefits and those are the result of public awareness of wanting to be part of a more sustainable world, promoting the consumption of products that respect the environment. Among the main benefits of the eco-labeling are the following:
1. Informing consumer choice: Eco-labeling is an effective way of informing customers about the environmental impacts of selected products, and the choices they can make. It empowers people to discriminate between products that are harmful to the environment and those more compatible with environmental objectives. An eco-label makes the customer more aware of the benefits of certain products, for example, recycled paper or toxic-free cleaning agents. It also promotes energy efficiency, waste minimization and product stewardship.
2. Promoting economic efficiency: Eco-labeling is generally cheaper than regulatory controls. By empowering customers and manufacturers to make environmentally supportive decisions, the need for regulation is kept to a minimum. This is beneficial to both government and industry.
3. Stimulating market development: When customers choose eco-labeled products, they have a direct impact on supply and demand in the marketplace. This is a signal which guides the market towards greater environmental awareness.
4. Encouraging continuous improvement: A dynamic market for eco-labeled products encourages a corporate commitment to continuous environmental improvement. Customers can expect to see the environmental impacts of products decline over time.
5. Promoting certification: An environmental certification program is a seal of approval which shows that a product meets a certain eco-label standard. It provides customers with visible evidence of the product’s desirability from an environmental perspective. Certification therefore has an educational role for customers, and promotes competition among manufacturers. Since certified products have a prominent logo to help inform customer choices, the product stands out more readily on store shelves. Coveting the logo may induce manufacturers to re-engineer products so that they are less harmful to the environment.
6. Assisting in monitoring: Another benefit of an official eco-labeling program is that environmental claims can be more easily monitored. Competitors and customers are in a better position to judge the validity of a claim, and will have an incentive to do so should a claim appear dubious.
With all this, although our contribution may seem not so big, the power we (consumers) have is much greater than we suspect, as can be seen from the constant appearance and disappearance of products and market references due to their low demand. It is the moment of Bangladeshi consumers to exercise the right to be informed and responsible consumers, seeking that the claims of the products / services we acquire are backed by reliable and verifiable systems.
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