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AUGUST 28 — Over the last few years, the climate crisis has risen to the top of the government and corporate agenda, with the call for urgent climate action heard loud and clear around the world.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted the focus globally to the pressing issue at hand.
Countries are looking at a long road to economic recovery and are faced with hard choices and important decisions to make regarding the route they must take.
One of the most pertinent questions that has been raised is whether we can afford to tackle climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic at the same time.
Instead, the question we must ask is whether we can afford not to.
The issue is ever present in the region, with countries like Malaysia not spared from the impact of climate change.
Malaysia’s temperature, rainfall and sea levels have been on the rise in the last 40 years, and are projected to continue rising to 2050, according to Malaysia’s 2018 climate change report.
Consequently, the country is likely to face more frequent and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts that have already caused extensive damage to lives and development.
With that as background, we are not in the position to hold off climate action any longer.
We have experienced a 4.6 per cent drop in greenhouse gas emissions during the Covid-19 pandemic — the highest since the burning of fossil fuels began.
As we move towards recovery, we need to reverse the reciprocal relationship between socio-economic and the environmental variables and ensure that the steps that we take to drive economic recovery goes hand-in-hand with a green transition.
Commitment to a green recovery
Governments alone cannot impact change at the rate and scale we need, even more so in light of the double crises at hand.
The drive to a green recovery needs to be supported by the private sector who have the knowledge and expertise to develop innovations to address the issue.
What the green recovery calls for is a leadership that looks beyond profits and shareholder value. A leadership that actively works towards creating larger societal impact, through fighting ongoing issues such as the climate and water crisis.
While it may not be the easiest way forward, companies that survive in the long run will be those that intelligently define what value creation means from a longer-term perspective, and strive for sustainable development even as we address the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are seeing positive action in this direction: earlier in May, over 155 multinationals came together to sign a statement reaffirming their science-based commitments to achieving zero carbon economy.
They called on governments around the world to match their ambition in the largest ever UN-backed CEO-led climate advocacy effort.
Companies are also increasingly incorporating sustainability in their business strategies.
At Grundfos, we have introduced the sustainability index as an integral part of executive pay to ensure the leadership team always upholds the Grundfos value of sustainability.
Ultimately, a global-level change will require businesses of all sizes and across all industries to make these choices to be part of the solution.
Making the green transition
The role of the private sector in impacting change and reducing global carbon emissions can be encapsulated in three keywords: Footprint, handprint, and blueprint.
The very first step to be a sustainable business is to reduce our own carbon footprint within the company and supply chains — from ensuring energy efficiency in our operations, to advancing circularity in the use of resources.
Energy efficiency especially is a low-hanging fruit to keep a lid on global warming while making good business sense by delivering cost savings.
Beyond improving one’s own operations, businesses should think of the handprint they are leaving behind by helping other businesses reduce their emissions.
No business or industry works in silo and at every step of the value chain, we have an opportunity to expand our impact through sustainable products and services.
For instance, pumps are used for a range of applications across diverse segments including domestic and commercial buildings, industrial processes and utilities, water supply and treatment, and irrigation and agriculture, to name a few. They also account for a staggering 10 per cent of the global energy consumption.
We can impact wide-scale change expanding across multiple sectors by leveraging the advanced technologies we have at our disposal today to enhance pump performance and make them more efficient.
Research shows that Malaysia could save RM46.9 billion in energy spending just by improving energy efficiency in the building and transport sectors between 2016 and 2030.
The ultimate goal is to develop a blueprint where partnerships can be formed to impact legislation and positive direction.
While businesses can introduce innovative solutions to address climate change, the impact can be increased multi-fold by getting the buy-in of all stakeholders — from governments to other industries to consumers — to work towards a common goal.
Partnerships for sustainable growth
We have a mammoth task at hand — to resurrect the global economy and accelerate the green transition – and in order to succeed, we need clear and committed targets and concerted efforts across industries and sectors to achieve them.
We need to look at three different levels of change simultaneously — what we do ourselves as an industry, how we work together with other sectors, and how we work with the government.
For instance, we need to work with other industries such as finance to fund green technologies and sustainable infrastructure.
On the other hand, a systemic change would require alignment with the government in the form of mandates and policies around issues such as energy efficiency, water management, and recycling.
Underlying this approach is an understanding that there are no silver bullets to managing a global pandemic and driving effective and immediate climate action simultaneously.
We need to recognise that we need different solutions working in tandem to make the society as a whole more sustainable.
We need to align our efforts in the direction of building a greener, decarbonised, and circular economy, one that can ensure economic recovery and progress while reducing our carbon emissions.
* Kim Jensen is Group Senior Vice President & Regional Managing Director, Grundfos Asia Pacific Region
** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.