Hugh Jones, Managing Director, Advisory, the Carbon Trust, on the growing importance of carbon footprinting and eco-labels in Asia and around the world.
This week I’m travelling around Malaysia, speaking at a series of outreach events for businesses across the country, explaining the growing importance of carbon footprinting and eco-labels in Asia and around the world. This follows the completion of the first phase of a pilot environmental declaration scheme in Malaysia, developed by SIRIM QAS with the Carbon Trust and key local partners, with funding from the European Union.
Measuring the carbon footprint of a product provides a structured approach that helps businesses to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for cost saving, both within their own operations and across the wider supply chain. And eco-labels provide a way to differentiate and promote products in competitive international markets, where sustainability is often a prerequisite for business-to-business procurement.
When implemented effectively, a well-designed carbon footprinting and eco-labelling scheme can incentivise better environmental and economic performance across whole industries, creating a race to the top where profit and planet can go hand-in-hand. In Malaysia it helps the country to meet its national target to reduce the intensity of its national carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020, when compared with 2005 levels.
The pilot scheme has focused on the construction and building materials industry. This has involved the development of a web-based carbon tool, the SIRIM Karbon Kalkulator, as well as an eco-label to demonstrate environmental credentials. A number of pioneering local companies have already been through the process, such as Hume Cemboard Industries, White Horse Ceramic Industries, CSL Technologies, and Kilo Industries, who are sharing their experiences at the events over the next fortnight.
These events will also feature international case studies demonstrating the benefits of footprinting and labelling, with examples from prominent companies such as Dyson. It also features a presentation from the Chinese Manufacturers Association of Hong Kong, who have worked with the Carbon Trust to develop a carbon footprinting and labelling scheme for their 3,000 industrial members.
Footprinting is particularly valuable for the construction materials sector, as it helps business to access lucrative export opportunities. The high environmental impact of buildings and infrastructure means that strict environmental regulations have been put in place in many regions, including the European Union. Even where these safeguards are not present a number of multinationals have themselves introduced robust internal policies and voluntary commitments in pursuit of improved sustainability.
Participating in a credible scheme demonstrates that a business understands in detail how its products are made, through all stages of the supply chain, and that due care and attention is paid to opportunities for improving environmental performance. It is a mark of a being a well-run and responsible business.
If this scheme is proven to be a success then there is no reason why the same approach cannot be applied more generally across Malaysian businesses, with only minor adjustments needed. This could have a positive impact across entire product lifecycles, from how they are designed and made, to how they are used, re-used or recycled.
This month’s outreach programme gives Malaysian business the opportunity to contribute to and learn from a comprehensively designed and broadly piloted eco-labelling scheme, which can contribute materially to building a better future.
Read more about Carbon Footprint Labels from the Carbon Trust.