AS IT becomes imperative for countries to move towards a circular economy to safeguard sustainability for future generations, businesses must align their operations with environmental, social and governance considerations.
Aimed at fostering awareness on the importance and benefits of implementing and incorporating circular economy policies into business practices, the recent Circular Economy Conference (CEC) 2021 brought together 20 thought leaders and industry experts to shed light on the emerging yet essential trend.
Compared to the “take, make and waste” nature of the linear economy, circular economy is one that is regenerative and restorative by design, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
It is underpinned by three principles: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems.
Among the highlights of the two-day conference was the panel discussion on “Reshaping the Industrial Ecosystem with the Circular Economy”.
Moderated by EcoKnights programme director Fadly Bakhtiar, it featured Greenbulb Energy founder and managing director Andy Low, Malaysian Green Building Council (MalaysiaGBC) member BK Sinha as well as Heng Hiap Industries founder and CEO Seah Kian Hoe.
“The ultimate goal of a circular economy is to accomplish zero waste, not only in port cities (where Greenbulb Energy’s business is in), but also across other industries,” said Low
“What we need to do is identify the strategies to solve the two acute problems of global warming by reducing carbon emissions itself.”
He said identifying waste was just step one of the process, to be followed by converting waste into useful energy by reducing combustion, or using available hybrid solutions.
Meanwhile, Sinha noted that MalaysiaGBC, as established members of the World Green Building Council, had reported progress in transforming the building and construction industry from business as usual to “business sustainable” since its establishment in 2009, with notable milestones such as the low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and GreenPagesMalaysia.
Seah shared that the business began its dive into circular economy by integrating all the fragmented aspects in the plastics recycling industry.
Along the way, it looked into reducing its electricity usage by generating its own renewable power and ventured into converting ocean-bound plastics waste into manufacturable materials to reduce marine pollution.
In its integrated ecosystem, Heng Hiap Industries can trace a product every step of the way through a unique QR code, which creates a circular journey that can be repeated with the consumer closing the loop by returning the product to the company, after which it can again be recycled through the same process for seven rounds.
“The plastic goes into chemical recycling that will gasify it to make a whole new plastic material.
“The difference is that the raw material or feedstock comes from existing materials and is not directly coming from crude oil,” said Seah.
Another discussion of interest was “Sustainability: Protecting while Maximising and Benefitting” from the 3Ps panel discussion, which saw BASF (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd managing director and Malaysia-Singapore business area head Goh Eng Leong pointing out, “Creating value is more sustainable than cutting costs. If you keep cutting costs, one day you will start cutting corners.”
The session was moderated by BDO Malaysia advisory executive director Pam Lee Wen Ai.
CEC 2021 is part of Star Media Group’s 50th Anniversary knowledge-sharing and educational initiative. It is supported by platinum sponsor UOB Malaysia Bhd and gold sponsor Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre.