Over the past few years, sustainability and environmentalism have been at the forefront of people’s and countries’ concerns. From climate change now being widely acknowledged as a significant threat to the well-being of this planet and its inhabitants to the survival of many species being threatened with extinction.
Last December saw the COP15 make headlines as the world’s nations come together to agree on a new set of goals to guide global action through 2030 to halt and reverse nature loss. And though it had some flaws, COP15 proved itself to be a good step towards improving the conservation of Earth’s biodiversity.
We have also witnessed growing trends amongst people and businesses with a focus on sustainability. More people, especially those in the younger generations, are adopting sustainable practices in their daily lives, from recyclable packaging to vegan diets. And more businesses are adopting Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) guidelines into their plans and strategies.
Malaysia is the same when it comes to joining in on these trends, but the question is, what exactly are these trends? And are Malaysians and Malaysian businesses on to these trends?
Let’s find out.
#1: Malaysians And Businesses Are Seeking Sustainable And Ethical Shopping And Products
It is no secret that younger generations of Malaysians are more conscious of their spending and the effects that their consumption is having on not just the environment but also the people involved in the production of their favourite products.
Naturally, this has created a market for sustainable and ethical businesses. Biji-Biji, Hive, Earth Heir, Langit Collective and many others provide that itch for sustainable and ethical shopping for the more eco-conscious consumer. Besides supplying eco-friendly products, these businesses also help local producers earn a fair wage, cutting out the middleman to create a circular economy for the benefit of our local small-scale producers.
Besides shopping, many eco-conscious consumers also seek out businesses providing eco-friendly packaging. These containers possess a range of desirable characteristics such as being plant-based, compostable, recyclable, biodegradable, reusable and energy-efficient in their production as well as being highly attractive. Characteristics that are drawing more and more attention towards them. Indeed, the market for eco-friendly packaging is expanding throughout the F&B sector with new packaging products cropping up that are less harmful to the environment without compromising on quality.
Naturally, this is great for business owners hoping to improve profits without comprising the environment. Percetakan Tenaga, one of the biggest packaging manufacturers and suppliers in Malaysia, is currently providing eco-friendly packaging for discerning business owners. Respack also supplies eco-friendly packaging comprised of raw 100% plant-based materials via earth2earth Sdn Bhd, a collaboration company between Respack and Thorn Environmental Ltd, one of the largest and most innovative producers of eco-friendly refuse sacks, bin-liners and packaging films in Ireland.
#2: Locally-Made Vegetarian And Vegan Products
With growing concerns about the environmental destruction wrought by the meat industry, it is no wonder that many Malaysians have jumped onto the vegetarian and vegan trend. And yet this trend also comes with its own problems, specifically the fact that many of them are imported, usually via aeroplane. And researchers have learnt that air travel emits far more carbon dioxide than automobiles.
Fortunately for the eco-conscious Malaysian, there are many local startups making waves throughout the F&B sector; Phuture Foods, for instance, produces plant-based minced pork that can be easily incorporated into a variety of cuisines including, Chinese, Korean, Japanese etc. As a sign of its success, last year saw Phuture collaborate with brands such as KyoChon, Grand Hyatt, and CU Malaysia to help distribute their pork-free pork products.
Meanwhile, Nanka provides jackfruit-based meat alternatives virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. In addition to its 100% vegan-based products, Nanka also offers a blended option that is 70% jackfruit and only 30% meat, as a way to help meat-eaters ease into a more vegetarian lifestyle. And last year saw the brand raise an undisclosed funding amount from US-based Leet Capital, further demonstrating how much success one can achieve in this market.
As for dairy product alternatives, Etblisse, a sister company to the family-based Biogreen, offers the OYA series of plant-based milk products. Adapted from the company’s existing powdered plant-based milk products, OYA utilises a combination of soy, oats, and rice plants to give it colour, texture, taste, nutrition, and stability. According to the team, OYA is lower in fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and has a significantly lower carbon footprint on the environment compared to dairy milk.
Snappea offers a rather unusual non-dairy milk product: pea milk! Claimed to be the “first pea milk in Asia”, Snappea was launched mid-pandemic where it quickly gained popularity thanks to utilising online distribution. Since then, the brand found a much wider distribution with retailers such as 7-Eleven, Jaya Grocer, Village Grocer, emart24, and AEON.
Even the popular dairy brand Farm Fresh has its own line of plant-based milk.
If you are interested in developing a more vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and are seeking a platform to purchase groceries and vegan products, consider visiting Vegan District’s online store to find all of your vegetarian needs. Also, consider getting the Veg-Hub app for easy and convenient vegan food delivery.
#3: Malaysian Agritech Continues To Development
Agritech has become a bit of a ‘buzzword’ in recent times, but what exactly is it?
Simply put, agricultural technology, or agritech for short, is the use of technology and innovation to improve the quality, efficiency, and output of agricultural processes and products.
Agritech has long been an active sector in our country, being seen as a means to combat food insecurity while simultaneously reducing environmental impacts and the cost of food production. Indeed, according to the Tracxn Geo Annual Report: SEA Tech 2022, Food & Agriculture Tech is the best-performing sector this year-to-date with US$1.33 billion (RM5.85 billion) in funding, an increase of 68% from the same period in 2021.
And agritech continues to develop itself with new innovations and applications. From hydroponics and vertical farming to Internet-of-Things (IoT)-based smart farming, blockchains and drones, Malaysia agritech has truly evolved in recent years. And over the years, several initiatives have been undertaken by public and private sectors in Malaysia to drive the growth of agritech through funding startups with agritech solutions, providing micro-financing schemes for farmers to adopt agritech, and more.
One of these initiatives is the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre’s (MaGIC) boot camp for agritech startups, conducted in 2019. One of the three winners of the boot camp is FarmExchange (later rebranded to Kapitani), a closed market where farmers can get loans directly for their required equipment.
For business owners seeking to try their hands on agritech, consider collaborating with or getting from agritech startups including BoomGrow Farms, Agri Space Tech, Fefifo and Rimbun Daun Ventures (RDV).
#4: Businesses Are Implementing More ESG Practices
The ESGs have been making headlines in the news throughout the latter half of 2022, with news & media publishers having repeatedly discussed ESG investing and many APAC (Asia Pacific) businesses having adopted ESG practices. Among these businesses (many of which are listed under Bursa Malaysia) are Genting Malaysia, KLCC Property Holdings, and Astro Malaysia Holdings, to name a few.
With the rising demand for sustainable assets and investments, the capital market is in a significant position to strongly influence how businesses conduct their sustainability efforts. As issues such as Climate Change and Environmental Impact affect the public consciousness more, Malaysian businesses are responding to the need for sustainability. Currently, 94% of the top 50 Malaysian PLCs (Public Limited Companies) have ESG plans in place, according to a December 2021 report by advisory firm PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
Hong Leong Bank, in particular, has been praised for being among the industry’s leaders in ESG standards, recognized by a 2021 CGS-CIMB Research paper for its efforts in promoting ESG practices across its operations, working with its borrowers to improve standards, incorporating ESG evaluation in its loan approval process, and practising disclosure of ESG-related information.
Of course, businesses seeking to integrate ESG practices into their own plans and strategies need to start from somewhere. Kearney has a series of articles that can help businesses learn more about the ESGs and how to integrate them into their business strategies.
#5: Carbon Neutrality Is At The Forefront Of Budget 2022
Malaysia may still be in the infant stage of adopting ESG practices. Still, we are flourishing amongst our ASEAN neighbours, with our nation’s ambitious plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 highlighting a progressive position relative to other ASEAN countries. Indeed, Malaysia is currently the only ASEAN country to introduce a voluntary carbon market in its Budget 2022, setting a platform for carbon credit trading between green asset owners and other entities transitioning towards low-carbon practices.
To help achieve this goal, the low-carbon city framework under the 12th Malaysia Plan aims to decarbonise over 30 cities first, followed by another 120. This is followed by the proposition of electric vehicle (EV) incentives to support the implementation of the low-carbon mobility blueprint, including the full exemption of import and excise duties and sales tax for EVs.
Already, it has been reported that Malaysia is on track to achieving its goal of installing up to 10,000 public charging stations for EVs in the country by 2025 under the Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint 2021-2030, with around 700 charging stations nationwide having been set up so far, according to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
This plan will likely not succeed in the short term, but both Malaysians and businesses should do their part.
Businesses must be willing to disclose their carbon emissions data to international organisations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in order to remain competitive in the market.
As for the average Malaysian citizen, it is important that we take steps to reduce our carbon footprint; try following these steps at home and at work.
#6: Sustainable Digitalisation To Help SMEs
In an increasingly global world that benefits large corporations, it can be difficult for SMEs (small-and-medium enterprises) to find their place. As such, it is vital that SMEs find a new niche to strengthen their resilience.
One such niche would be digitalisation in sustainable business practices.
Already, many SMEs have already begun embarking into digitalisation long before the pandemic – be it in terms of technology or research and development aligned with the Fourth Industrial Revolution – to uplift their productivity and efficiency, while reducing their dependence on labour-intensive processes, in order to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Today, over 50% of the workforce in medium-sized businesses use computers with internet access and digital tools – adding massive value and benefits to their companies, with benefits ranging from a reduction in transaction and transportation costs to easier access to financing.
As a driver of social change, digitalisation will have effects – both positive and negative – on every SDG. As such, not only will digitalisation have to be sustainable, it will also have to be used to boost the sustainability agenda in the pursuit of the SDGs. One method of doing so is to use digital matching platforms that can identify new high-value reuse options for materials or waste products across industries, using a combination of AI and human expertise, creating or boosting circular economies.
For business owners interested in digitalising their business, consider taking a business course from Unifi.
#7: Travellers Are Seeking Socially And Eco-Conscious Tourism
The shift towards sustainable and ethical consumption has made its way into the travel and tourism industries. Many tourists, especially those of the younger generation, are seeking escapes that will create a more meaningful impact on nature and society.
Travel network Virtuoso has found in its research in 2022 that younger generations are willing to pay more money for “travel brands and experiences that focus on environmentally-friendly philosophies, those that contribute to local people, and that also preserve natural and cultural heritage”.
This type of tourism, dubbed “regenerative tourism”, provides an experience where travellers are given the opportunity to leave a place in better condition than it was before. And there is no doubt that will become more popular in the near future.
If, you plan on going on a meaningful vacation where you can make real change, try a Fuze Ecoteer (FE) eco-tour. Ecoteer is a volunteer-based organisation that also provides support to local NGOs. FE’s eco-tours provide unique ecotours while allowing travellers to experience and protect nature at the same time through regenerative ecotourism.
There are four Ecoteer conservation programs to choose from: Perhentian Turtle Project, Perhentian Eco-Education Project, Perhentian Marine Research Station and Wildlife Rescue Centre. Each provides a unique experience that helps the well-being of the Malaysian environment and local communities as well as providing valuable training in various skills such as scuba diving.
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