With deforestation and biodiversity loss reaching worrisome levels, Malaysia is dealing with more significant sustainability concerns that pose a major threat to the balance of the country’s delicate ecosystems.
Minister of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad cited the current example of Malaysia's recent heatwave, which has prompted questions about the sufficiency of the country's water and electrical supplies.
Alongside the sustainability concerns, analysts downgrade the industry’s growth projection and express caution about Malaysia’s manufacturing. Given the much lower-than-expected reading in April and the muted year-to-date performance, Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd has lowered Malaysia’s 2023 manufacturing index growth prediction from 5.0 to 2.4 per cent (2022: 8.2 per cent).
The manufacturing sector has a substantial influence on the environmental, economic, and social aspects of sustainability (the triple bottom line) due to the considerable demands it places on energy, water, materials, and other resources. Hence, it is crucial to address and prioritise this issue.
This can be achieved through sustainable manufacturing - manufacturing practices that minimise negative environmental effects, preserve energy and natural resources, are secure for workers, communities, and customers, and are fiscally responsible.
It is necessary to define and put into practice several practical elements at the product, process, and system levels in order to create a sustainable manufacturing system.
These include applying notions of using non-hazardous, recyclable materials and inputs; creating and organising manufacturing methods to use less water, energy, and resources; using environmentally friendly renewable energy; designing products to be recyclable, reusable, or re-manufacturable; expanding the use of less material and employing procedures that are simple to fix; and utilising effective logistics and transportation methods.
An example is Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, one of the biggest producers of environmentally friendly palm oil in the world. They’ve incorporated sustainable practices into their business operations, such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions and preserving water supplies.
In fact, Malaysian industries are being urged to adopt sustainable manufacturing techniques faster using collaborative robots that reduce product faults and waste by operating more effectively and precisely. This important action may contribute to Malaysia’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for reducing waste production and improving resource efficiency by 2030.
This is critical because less than 20 per cent of Malaysia’s business sector has committed to sustainability activities, according to the 2022 Malaysia Business Sustainability Pulse Report. Nearly half (46 per cent) of Malaysian businesses don’t have a budget for sustainability initiatives.
According to MIDA CEO Datuk Wira Arham Abdul Rahman, it is crucial to have a coordinated effort from all significant players throughout the value chain, including manufacturers, legislators, real estate developers, infrastructure providers, and end users, to accelerate the development of electric vehicles (EV) in Malaysia and drive for sustainable manufacturing as well as a green economy.
The adoption of sustainable development is underway across the manufacturing industries, and Malaysia wants to fulfil its goals of having 10,000 EV chargers operational by 2025 and 15 per cent of cars being electric by 2030.
The Malaysian government has been promoting sustainable manufacturing practices through various initiatives, such as the National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) and the National Policy on the Environment (NPE).
Society can play a role in promoting sustainable manufacturing practices by supporting companies that adopt such practices. Consumers can choose to buy products that are made using sustainable manufacturing processes. This will encourage companies to adopt such practices, as it will be profitable for them.
Sustainable manufacturing is a continual process. Understanding the interactions between human activity and the natural environment is necessary.
Thus, radical and creative educational reforms with a paradigm shift will be needed to equip the next generation of engineers, scientists, and managers with the technical knowledge, skills, and capacities needed to produce sustainable value through sustainable manufacturing.
By implementing sustainable manufacturing, sustainable production and consumption patterns may be improved, and SDG 12 can be achieved. It is hoped that effective use of natural resources, waste reduction, and the promotion of green jobs may all be accomplished.
Prof Dr Suhaiza Hanim Mohamad Zailani is Director, Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies, Universiti Malaya.