December 14, 2022

What Can Be Done to Make Malaysia More Sustainable?

In 2015, Malaysia was among 192 countries at the UN General Assembly in New York where they ratified and adopted the Sustainable Development Goals and 169 specific targets. SDGs are universal sets of targets and goals that are expected to guide UN member states in framing their developmental and political agendas for a period of 15 years. So, how has Malaysia promoted sustainable development? In this post, we take a closer look at Malaysia to demonstrate its ESG ratings and progress toward sustainable development goals. We will also highlight what more needs to be done to make the country more sustainable.


Important Economic Metrics about Malaysia 

Before looking at SDGs and how Malaysia has performed over the last seven years, let's start by highlighting crucial trends and facts about the country. 

  • Has a population of 32.7 million (2021 statistics).
  • The GDP of Malaysia is US$ 372.7 (2021 estimates).
  • GDP per capita is 11,371.1 (2021 estimates).
  • Government debt as a percentage of the GDP is 62.1% (2020 estimate).
  • Foreign Direct Investment in Malaysia as a percentage of GDP is 1.2%.

What is Sustainable Development? 

To understand the efforts being put forth by Malaysia, it is important to go back to the beginning. So, what exactly is sustainable development? Why is it necessary? 

It is a form of development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs too. The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) demonstrated that environment and development were not just related but permanently intertwined. You cannot leave one out when talking about the other. 

The concept has three core pillars: environment, society, and governance (ESG) and a country has to balance its impacts in all of them to be considered sustainable. The expanded concept of sustainable development was used to prepare the SDGs that Malaysia and other nations are using to build their sustainability credentials. 

At this point, we must say that achieving SDGs requires a concerted effort from governments, institutions, individuals, and businesses. Everyone has to be involved!

How Malaysia Promotes Sustainable Development 

According to the 2019 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, Malaysia ranked 68th of 162 nations and came fourth in ASEAN. Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore scooped the first positions in the same report. Of the 17 MDGs, Malaysia made immense positive achievements in areas of poverty reduction, quality education, clean energy provision, and climate action. Here are the specific actions by the country. 

  • Recognition that Achieving SDG Requires Commitment from All Stakeholders

Malaysia, like most UN member states, has appreciated that SDGs can only be realized when every stakeholder is on-board. Therefore, it has been working on bringing more parties on board, from individual businesses to schools and nonprofits. This has been very critical because it helps to inform policies and facilitate the allocation of resources to help drive the causes for sustainability via different departments. For example, Malaysia’s allocation towards sustainability in its 2022 budget was RM450 million, which affirms the nation’s commitment to sustainability (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). 

  • Use of Policies to Promote Sustainability

To help it achieve its SDGs, the Malaysian administration appreciated that it needs the right laws. We must commend Malaysia because its commitment to help address sustainability started way earlier than 2015. In 1974, the country passed the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which has been very helpful in environmental protection. It matches well with MDGs because Malaysia only intensified what it had started decades earlier.

In 2016, Malaysia made ESG reporting mandatory for all listed companies, making it the first nation in Asia to do so. This move has been critical in pushing more companies, especially large firms, to adopt sustainability actions and report accurately so that investors and other stakeholders can adopt them. 

Despite the efforts, concerns have been raised that the penalties outlined by different laws are too lenient. In September, the law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar called for a review of the laws to increase penalties so that companies can find it easier to operate sustainably than pay for the damage.

  • Integration of National Development Plan With SDGs

One fact about sustainability is that it is a process as opposed to an end-point. Malaysia aims to realize sustainability through mapping, which involves breaking down the targets into short plans to help push the country to the next sustainability levels. The mapping started with the 11t Malaysian Plan of 2016-2020, which set key performance indicators for sustainability. Then, it was followed by the 12 Malaysian Plan 2021-2025 and the next one will be the 13 Malaysian Plan 2026-2030. 

With these development plans, Malaysia crafted six policies that are guiding the country's focus on promoting inclusiveness, accelerating human capital development, and re-engineering infrastructure. These plans are making the Malaysian administration know that it is on course toward a sustainable future. 

  • Supporting the Conversation about Sustainability in Malaysia 

In 2019, Malaysia hosted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) summit with the theme "The Whole of Nation Approach: Accelerating Progress on SDGsto raise awareness of SDGs. Therefore, it opened the platform to discuss progress, opportunities, and solutions. This conversation has helped to educate more people about sustainability and persuaded them to change their lifestyles. 

It also helps to create a feedback system to help companies and individual Malaysians to identify ESG challenges. The commitment is also helping to generate more ideas on sustainability, which can be used to improve eco-operations and ESG ratings.

What Can Be Done to Make Malaysia More Sustainable? 

The methods being used by Malaysia to help it achieve sustainable development goals show that the nation is committed to helping the planet become a better place. To make the country even more sustainable, here are additional expert suggestions. 

  • Support Energy Efficiency and Conservation 

When talking about sustainability, energy and its conservation are always at the center. The Malaysian government may work towards encouraging companies to improve energy efficiency. There are a number of ways that companies, government departments, and homes can use to achieve such goals. 

One of the best is using CONTINEWM. This is an innovative device that is designed to help reduce the energy used by HVAC systems. It is installed on the front part of the heat exchanger, where it helps to clear positive electrostatic charges created by the moving parts of the air conditioning system. With CONTINEWM, you are able to cut down energy use by as much as 50%. Other benefits of CONTINEWM are that it is easy to install, comes in handy in improving indoor air quality, and requires minimal maintenance. 

  • Integrate Sustainability Training in Malaysian Development 

It is true that Malaysia has done so much in trying to disseminate knowledge about sustainable development goals (SDGs). However, a lot more still needs to be done. Companies, both small and large, should be able to integrate sustainability at the functional level. If a startup is working on a new product, how does it integrate sustainability? The best way to achieve sustainability is by working with ESG experts, such as Climate Fresk. 

Climate Fresk, one of the leading experts in ESG training, can help to equip companies and organizations with the right skills for sustainability. The organization uses the latest findings and ESG data to help companies rethink their processes for sustainability. Organizations that have worked with Climate Fresk indicate that the agency walked with them, making it possible to not only understand sustainability applications but counter every challenge along the way and improve ESG rating.

  • Shift to Clean Energy 

In Malaysia, the country's largest source of energy is fossil fuels. This makes it a major source of greenhouse gasses (GHG), both in Asia and across the globe. This is one of the reasons why it has been lagging, taking position 68 on the SDG Index and Dashboards Report. As a low-lying country, high GHG emissions, which cause global warming, can be a major threat due to the rapid rise in coastal sea levels. 

Malaysia should also intensify its focus on the adoption of clean energy. More importantly, this effort should be anchored on the fact that petroleum and natural gas are expected to get depleted by 2060. If Malaysia will not develop clear alternatives by then, there is a likelihood of a major economic slowdown or even collapse. This is why the country's Sustainable Energy Development Authority should use every effort to keep the country on the renewable energy roadmap. 

  • Influence other Nations to Adopt Sustainable Practices 

Can a country achieve sustainability alone? Well, it can make major strides, but the planet is an interconnected ecosystem, which implies that what happens in one area affects others. Even if a country achieves net-zero carbon from its operations, the effects of global warming will still be evident because of other emitters. This is why Malaysia should not feel comfortable in its journey towards sustainable development goals (SDGs) but also seek to influence others. 

As a major manufacturing hub, the country can work with other nations to insist that ESG is part of the relationship. For example, manufacturers can insist they will only sell to clients with clear structures to cut down carbon footprint or plans for sustainability. Note that the goal should not be to deny willing and capable buyers but to persuade them to adopt sustainable operations. 

Sustainability is a process, and Malaysia has already started it. This post has demonstrated that the country is working towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), but there is a lot more that needs to be done. Using the strategies we have listed above, Malaysia can grow rapidly and become the new beacon for sustainability in entire Asia and across the globe.