Sustainability is no longer a novel term to businesses nationwide. A 2017 research showed that 80 percent of local companies were very concerned about the potential impact on the environment when they realised new products and services.
Last year however saw reports recording interest to prioritise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from 73 percent of Malaysian companies while 20 percent had included the SDGs in their published business strategy.
“There are two main drivers for increasing awareness on sustainable business practices. The need to increase consumer awareness and promising government incentives,” says Daisuke Hori, Managing Director of Epson Malaysia.
With Covid-19 and the resulting lockdowns increasing work and financial stress for many, it is easy to assume that consumers have dropped their ethical and environmental concerns when shopping.
However, numerous reports and studies have shown that the opposite is true. Daisuke is of the opinion that the Coronavirus have focused our minds on helping to create a better and healthier world.
The pandemic has heightened consumers’ awareness for choosing sustainable products and this includes making healthier diet choices, opting for sustainably sourced products and energy-savings electronics, he says.
In Malaysia, Putrajaya has also introduced incentives intended to spur adoption of sustainable practices. This included the Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) which is applicable to companies that use green technology services listed in MGTC’s MyHIJAU directory, with Epson being one of the many listed on it.
“As a result of increasing consumer awareness and promising government incentives, there is a growing number of sustainable business in Malaysia and we expect to see more of it in 2021,” Daisuke highlights.
Adopting green technology
A McKinsey survey on business sustainability has proven that businesses that integrated sustainable practices were able to improve operational efficiency. This not only helps to improve productivity of company, but it also enables the company to be much more cost effective.
“Taking the first step to invest in sustainability practices may be costly at the beginning, but over time, companies are able to save money. Sustainability with businesses isn’t just good for the environment or society at large, it is actually good for the business itself,” Daisuke says.
He also highlights that those consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products as they become more aware of the businesses they support.
Studies have shown that consumers favour companies that actively addresses or shows support towards environmental issues.
“By adopting sustainability practices, businesses are able to establish a good image in the eyes of consumers. This enables small businesses to set themselves apart from their competitors, helping them to grow and build a grow a long-lasting brand differentiation and loyalty,” he tells BusinessToday.
Through Epson, Daisuke and his team are now looking to step up their efforts even further and have established organisation to promote environmental measures in their printing, visual and other businesses.
With roots in watchmaking, the company has leveraged their compact and precision technologies to continue creating products that use less power, that are smaller and are more accurate.
“To achieve greener operations, we have always set ourselves high targets and have had to overcome a number of difficulties.
“An example of this was in 1988 when we were the first company in the world to announce the elimination of CFCs from our operations. To make this happen, we had to find alternative technologies and introduce new manufacturing processes to eliminate an annual total of around 14 million tonnes of CFCs. We finally achieved the goal in 1993,” he said.
Epson has also recently announced that they would become carbon negative by 2050 and eliminate the use of non-renewable underground resources.
In order to achieve this, he says, the company will have to explore innovative ways to achieve decarbonisation and close the resource loop, develop products that reduce customers’ environmental impacts and develop new environmental technologies.
While he believes that the intention to go green will benefit the business in the long-term, Daisuke also acknowledges the difficulty smaller businesses will face to get the transition going.
“Cashflow will be the main concern. Keeping a business running isn’t the easiest task, especially for SMEs. They are constantly tied to obstacles such as lack of cash flow and unforeseen expenses whilst overlooking the entire business management,” Daisuke says.
This in return may result in smaller businesses lacking the time, energy, and money to look into greener practices.
“This where we need to educate smaller business owners how a small change, such as choosing a different printer, can have a larger impact.”
Developing A Sustainable Society
“A combined effort from businesses, government and public is needed to drive improvements in environmental and social practices. Fortunately, the Malaysian government’s commitment to accelerating the sustainability agenda nationwide is reflected in Budget 2021.
“Last year, Epson reiterated its commitment to the United Nations Global Impact by signing the Statement from Business Leaders for Renewed Global Cooperation,” Daisuke tells BusinessToday.
Epson also publishes a CSR activity report every year since 1999 and recently, the company launched a printer sustainability campaign called “Be Cool” which aims to empower businesses to adopt greener printing practices with Epson Heat-Free technology.
As part of the campaign, the company has partnered with leading environmental NGO EcoKnights to organise a virtual forum themed, “Building Business Resilience through Sustainable Technology” to drive conversations surrounding environmental-friendly business practices and its impact in the recovering economy.
“Of course, there is a still a lot to be done locally, but we are confident in what we do. That said, sustainability has been and will continue to be a key focus in every aspect of our business activity,” Daisuke concludes.