As environmental issues continue to make headlines in the country, NGOs are calling for private companies to boost efforts on protecting the environment.
News of the Sungai Kim Kim toxic waste dumping and illegal plastic recycling factories have highlighted how business interests must not supersede environmental responsibility.
According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), environmental protection expenditure by private companies has been on an upward trend though it has slowed down in recent years.
The findings released on May 31 showed that companies’ spending on environmental protection has increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8% to RM2.59bil in 2017.
Businesses recorded the largest jump in their environmental protection expenses in 2015, with a 13.7% increase from the year before.
Environmental protection expenditure refers to all expenses incurred by companies to comply with environmental regulations or voluntary agreements.
Pertubuhan Pelindungan Khazanah Alam Malaysia’s Selangor chairman Damien Thanam Divean said companies could be complying with eco-friendly practices to appeal to customers.
“However, if the environmentally-friendly manufacturing process increase costs and reduce profit, corporations will usually refrain from practising them,” he said.
He said that while consumer awareness on environmentally safe manufacturing practices had grown, this could be improved further.
“The demand by consumers for eco-friendly practices is expanding but not fast or wide enough to completely revolutionise the current system,” he said.
Environmental laws, he said, coupled with strict enforcement must be in place.
He added that active engagement between civil society and private enterprises was also important to bring more eco-friendly business practices.
Environmental activist Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil also said the increase in companies’ expenditure on environmental protection was still not enough.
“The environment has never been a priority in this country,” said the Organisation for the Preservation of Natural Heritage Malaysia president.
A strong political will, she said, was needed to ensure that private companies do their part to protect the environment.
“The government can make it compulsory to all companies to plant trees as part of their corporate social responsibility, or clean rivers or beaches.
“They can also reduce taxes for companies that make it a point to use hybrid or electric cars,” she said.