Sustainability is an increasingly important concern when doing business. All across the world, the “green” movement has gained considerable traction, and Kuala Lumpur is no different. Here city folk are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of business, especially with regards to consumption habits.
“Countries are still frigid with zero-waste, it affects consumerism and the economy. Containers clog the drains and people complain when the water rises, yet it’s manmade,” says Claire Sancelot, the founder of The Hive, a co-operative in Bangsar. “We can’t blame it on bad city infrastructure, start with consumption habits.”
Sancelot’s inspiration for The Hive came when she noticed the lack of affordable organic food as well as the excessive use of plastic packaging everywhere.
To address this, The Hive offers a large variety of bulk whole foods such as nuts, legumes, and cereals. Other offerings include homemade food spreads, biscuits, oils, seasoning, and baking condiments.
Better consumption habits are also encouraged to minimise wastage and environmental damage. For example, Sancelot recommends buying items in bulk to reduce environmental impact. “On average, packaging and marketing accounts for 15 percent of a product’s price. Buying in bulk is cheaper because it reduces packaging and stretches the money further,” she says.
Aside from food, fashion is another cutting-edge industry, appropriate as fashion is the world’s second largest polluter.
Biji-Biji Initiative, a social enterprise, began by making 2,000 bags from discarded advertising banners. The bags became so popular that the team expanded to making other things such as totes, purses, clutches and bucket bags, from recycled materials such as carpets and seatbelts.
However, Biji-Biji has a mandate well beyond fashion to further an ethos of sustainable living through reusing waste creatively. The award-winning initiative has a workshop with a full array of tools that can be used to upcycle any material - banners, plastic bottles, diesel drums, wooden pallets and metal scraps; items found at home or discarded from factories - to be turned into furniture, art installations and event props.
According to creator and builder of Biji-biji.com, William Kong, 'upcycling' allows for what was considered waste to be reused productively.
"It's different from recycling where the used item is broken down into smaller parts in the factory and the material reused to create the same product, which is a cycle.
"However for upcycling process, we are totally running away from that cycle, which means no breaking down of parts is required. Meaning there will be no energy wasted, only manpower," Kong told Astro Awani.
This sensitivity to the environment and its subsequent behavioural change comes as younger millennials begin to align their buying decisions to their own personal values.
Studies have found that millennials are increasingly lending their support to organisations which prioritise environmental preservation, even if it comes with a financial premium. For instance, a survey by Nielsen in 2015 revealed that 72% of Generation Z (aged 15-20) are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, up from 55% in the previous year.
Transitioning to a more sustainable business environment also comes with economic benefits, such as job creation, start-up initiatives and private investment.
“When there is a demand for products made from waste, there will be a supply. This is the best way to reduce waste and the same time bring profit for builders and creators," said Kong.
Green investments and consumer choices are increasingly becoming a win-win situation that balances economic concerns with the long-term well-being of the planet.
Photo Credit : Biji-biji Website & Social Media