Go green! Save Mother Earth! These are some of the phrases we have heard over the years as Malaysians become more environmentally conscious and, as a result, buy more eco-friendly products.
The transition to a green circular economy is taken seriously by both the people and the government. Malaysia needs an economy that is able to grow and benefit its people without increasing the negative impact on the environment and putting pressure on natural resources. The Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) blueprint is emphasised in the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) as one of the focus areas that will help the country achieve green growth and transition towards a more inclusive development trajectory.
The SCP blueprint is implemented through the Government Green Procurement (GGP) project. The 2½-year project focuses on the role of the government as a key catalyst in creating a green market for products and services.
GGP refers to the acquisition of products, services and work in the public sector that takes into account environmental criteria and standards for protecting the environment and natural resources and minimising or mitigating the negative effects of human activities. The 11MP has stated the target for 20% of selected groups of products and services in government procurement to be green procurement by 2020.
The government's long-term action plan is to have 100% procurement of selected product groups by 2030. With the federal, state and local governments involved in GGP, there will be an increase in demand for green products and services and this will spur industries to meet green requirements.
Notably, the SCP blueprint is also in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 12 (UN SDG 12): Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Launched in 2013, the GGP initiative in Malaysia started with five ministries involved in a pilot programme. From only six product categories initially, 40 product and service categories have now been identified and selected in the implementation of GGP.
Manufacturers and providers of other green products and services that are not on the list are encouraged to participate as long as they meet the green criteria.
A product or service that meets local and international environmental standards will be given the MyHIJAU mark. MyHIJAU is Malaysia's official green recognition scheme endorsed by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
Another commitment from the government is the Green Technology Master Plan, which aims to facilitate the National Transformation (Transformasi Nasional 2050 or TN50), an initiative to position Malaysia among the top countries in the world in economic development, citizen well-being and innovation by 2050.
Many manufacturers claim their products are environmentally friendly but how can consumers ascertain that they really are? The answer is they can - by looking for products that are certified under the SIRIM Eco-Labelling Scheme. These products not only receive independent verification that they were manufactured according to certain environmentally friendly criteria and quality processes, but they have also been tested against a pre-set green criteria.
Apart from supporting the implementation of GGP, the SIRIM Eco-Labelling mark also presents a competitive edge to products over similar ones in the market.
They gain acceptance in international "green markets" that favour eco-friendly products. They can participate in green procurement programmes by the government and the private sector.
The SIRIM Eco-Labelling certification is awarded by SIRIM QAS International, Malaysia's leading testing, inspection and certification body. SIRIM QAS is a member of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), a non-profit network comprising 27 eco-label organisations worldwide that aims to improve, promote and develop the eco-labelling of products and services worldwide.
SIRIM QAS' membership in GEN gives credibility to the SIRIM Eco-Labelling Scheme and puts it on par with the eco-labelling schemes of other member countries.
The SIRIM Eco-Labelling certification will enhance a brand's image and its manufacturer's reputation as an environmentally friendly company. Not only do eco-friendly products contribute to the preservation and protection of the environment, they also increase efficiency in production and reduce wastage in terms of rejects.
"With the SIRIM Eco-Labelling mark, consumers need not carry out further tests as the product already complies with environmental standards. Certified products not only give the assurance of environmental sustainability but also safety, quality and reliability," says Kamarul Arieffin Rosli, the lead auditor for Eco-Labelling Scheme at SIRIM QAS. "This way, consumers can steer clear of sub-standard products or those that are misrepresented."
Currently, there are 100 product criteria documents (PCDs) under the Eco-Labelling Scheme and 145 companies have been certified so far. SIRIM is developing more PCDs to allow more products to be recognised as green or eco-friendly.
SIRIM also provides environmental technology and management service under its Environmental Technology Research Centre. An Environmental Performance Assessment Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is carried out to evaluate the environmental impact throughout the life cycle stages of the product, such as raw material extraction, material processing, product manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal or recycling. The results obtained in the LCA can be used to identify options for environmental improvements, drive eco-design initiatives, make environmentally informed decisions and market the product through Eco-Labelling.
To receive the SIRIM Eco-Labelling certification, products have to comply with product standards or specifications and the relevant eco-labelling criteria, demonstrate an acceptable quality as specified in the product certification agreement, as well as comply with the relevant provisions of the Environmental Quality Act.
"SIRIM's Eco-Labelling certification process covers all bases and ensures complete compliance. Through LCA, SIRIM assesses the environmental impact of a product or activity throughout its life cycle from extraction of raw materials to processing, transport and even disposal," says Kamarul Arieffin.
To ensure that the required standards are upheld, SIRIM's Eco-Labelling certification process is intensive and involves enquiry, application, document evaluation, factory audit, sample selection and testing, recommendation and approval, surveillance and renewal.
After products have received certification, surveillance audits are carried out every two years to ensure that companies uphold the certification standards.
Although there are self-declaration options for eco-labels, SIRIM acts as a third party and ensures compliance with its detailed certification process.
SIRIM QAS is now offering a 20% rebate on Eco-Labelling Certification Scheme from 1st June until 31st December 2020.