Sustainable development requires eco-friendly services

UNDP, UNEP and Prothom Alo organised the roundtable titled ‘SDG: Role of Online service Providing Companies’.

Bazlul Hoque Khondker, Nazneen Ahmed, MA Razzaque and Mahfuzul Islam.
Prothom Alo

Online service based market is growing larger in the country. Along with that, the consumer group is also inflating. Among the existent online services, food delivery (food being delivered to the desired destination) is very popular. But the use of polythene or plastic is extensive there.

If Bangladesh is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it needs to focus on creating eco-friendly production as well as eco-conscious consumers. This requires policy formulation including training arrangements on every level.

Speakers said this in a roundtable ‘SDG: Role of Online service Providing Companies’, held at Prothom Alo office at the capital’s Karwan Bazar area on Monday. The United Nations Development programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Prothom Alo jointly organised the roundtable.

The aim of United Nations’ SDG no. 12 is to ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern’. Keeping this aim in mind, the roundtable emphasised on food delivery. Meanwhile, Nazneen Ahmed, country economist UNDP Bangladesh presented a paper on this.

The paper stated, everything seems positive because of the online service. Production and consumers are increasing, plus the payments are done easily. These services are making life much easier. But alongside, we have to consider the environmental impact of it too. A potential 'push demand' is being noticed here.

Despite there being no need for a service or product, seeing it online creates an urge for purchase. And this is not positive always. The issue of climate change has to be considered, as the environment is slowly moving towards a threat. People need to ponder upon how much they actually need the things they are consuming or buying.

Professor Bazlul Hoque Khondker, chairman of the private research organisation SANEM said that the country's online-based service market is not that big yet, but it surely will grow. And when it does, the environmental problems will escalate as well.

If a policy isn’t formulated right now, it will be next to impossible to control the situation. There could be research on topics like what should be the packaging or delivery methods for the online service providers, he added.

Pointing out that although Bangladesh has a high economic growth, employment opportunities are not being created accordingly Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) chairman MA Razzaque said, when enough employment cannot be created, service-based sectors are thought of. Contribution of those providing online services has to be considered intently now. This sector is ballooning up.

Mahfuzul Islam, deputy general manager of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) said that how to ensure a balanced distribution by minimising the wastage has to be kept in mind.

Addressing the food delivery companies he added, the idea of including an option for customer to review if they are ordering excessive food or not, can be considered, so that the thought of moderation is there on the consumer’s mind.

Fakrul Ahsan, chief technical adviser at UNDP Bangladesh reckons, if a little attention is paid towards production and consumption, the impact of this on the environment will decline. If a paperless system is developed, it will be good for the country itself, he said.

Ambareen Reza, chief executive officer of Foodpanda Bangladesh highlighted different challenges of delivering food. She said, packaging is the toughest when it comes to food. Foodpanda is working on that alongside working with restaurants to prevent food wastage, she added.

Biplob Ghosh, chief executive officer of eCourier said, those who provide logistics services to make online services and businesses eco-friendly, can share warehouse and vehicle.

Nasima Akhter, founder and president of Women and e-Commerce (WE), emphasised on training entrepreneurs on how to do business in an environment friendly way, starting from packaging.

Tahmina Khan, co-founder of Mummy’s Pickle and chief executive officer of Shoily said, if someone returns a pickle bottle bought from Mummy's Pickle, they get a discount of Tk 12.

She added that they get 60 per cent of their bottles back in this way. Although it incurs a bit of losses, some regular customers are created in the process.

Waresa Khanam, founder of Her E-Trade, said that certain rules have to be followed for using their platform, where the environment is also been given importance.

Mahfuz Sadique, chief communication officer of bKash Limited said that bKash is ready to help in various fields including cut down on fuel consumption as a Mobile Financial Service (MFS) company, keeping the SDGs in mind.

Mohammad Aminul Haque, executive director of Nagad Limited said that Nagad will facilitate those who will work on issues that are environment friendly.

Abdul Quayum, associate editor of Prothom Alo gave the opening speech at the roundtable while Firoz Choudhury, assistant editor of Prothom Alo moderated it.