What does sustainability mean to you at work, in your daily life or even during the current COVID-19 pandemic? How can you make sustainability part of your lifestyle, both personally and professionally?
by STANISLAUS ROSHAN ANTHONYSAMY
We spend more hours at our work places than at our homes; therefore, our contribution to sustainability should be relatively more when we are commuting to and from work, and when we are at work. The COVID-19 pandemic has awakened us to some realities that will become our new normal, and how we could contribute at a personal level, and as a business organisation.
The pandemic has prevented us from frequent ride-sharing or the use of public transport for fear of contracting the virus; therefore, unless we are absolutely required physically at our work locations, working from home remains a more sustainable solution. To those who work from the office or work sites, the use of web applications for remote meetings will now be increasingly utilised to engage all stakeholders; this eliminates the need to travel, minimises the need to be in close proximity, and contributes directly to lesser air pollution caused by commuting. In only just a few weeks of the movement control order around the world, our planet has begun to heal itself; heavy dense fogs that became part of the ‘normal’ in some cities due to excessive pollution from cars and factories have now disappeared, and polluted rivers and lakes which were said to be impossible to be cleaned have ‘cleaned’ themselves as man-made pollution has been drastically decreased the pandemic quarantine. The anxious request on every Earth Day Celebration for the past 50 years to implement one day in the world with no vehicles on the road has, unfortunately or fortunately, come to pass via a pandemic, and this has proven that we actually can make a difference to the environment if we had wanted to, by not driving or stopping the factories for a few days.
The pandemic has also opened our eyes to so many people who live hand to mouth and/or have lost their source of income as a result of the movement control order. These people are now suffering without being able to afford food while others throw away good food on a daily basis. Malaysia’s daily food waste is about 17,000 tonnes; this can feed approximately 12 million people three times a day. These staggering numbers should be an eye opener to us. Thus, it is comforting to know that many organisations in Malaysia such as Robin Food, Grub Cycle, Lost Food Project and the like have been formed by sustainability conscious founders to collect food that would otherwise have gone to waste to be redistributed to the needy. At a personal level, I am doing my part by ensuring that food consumption and raw food procurement in my house hold is limited to only what is required, and that we are conscious about those who are suffering to feed themselves and their families on a daily basis. I also believe in doing my part in reaching out and helping through these food collection agencies whenever there is food to spare; a simple phone call to any of these food collection organisations is all that it takes to make a difference in providing sustenance to a fellow human being.
As a company, Gamuda can contribute to sustainability through the use of a dashboard that shows us in Ringgit and Sen the daily usage of plastic for waste paper baskets, lights replaced, air conditioner power usage, water usage, stationary usage, printer paper usage, etc. When employees actually see the monetary value of the waste that they are contributing to, they will subconsciously help reduce this waste whenever and wherever they can. In addition, Gamuda can reach out to its employees during major celebrations of Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas to utilise the services of food collection agencies as food wastage during festivities is the highest. Having employees volunteer with these food collection agencies as part of Gamuda’s Corporate Social Responsibility activity can further instil the value of giving whatever extra we have.
Gamuda can further align with the UN’s Industry and Infrastructure sustainability goal by engaging with our Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to ensure that they provide products that require minimal maintenance i.e. a robust design and mechanics utilising ethically sourced parts and sustainable consumables. This will ensure end products that are profitable in every way to our clients. Sustainable innovation like the innovation in battery technology that is increasingly being improved to harness power and to disperse it economically has the potential to be developed further to power vehicles, households, trains, train stations, and E&M systems like lifts and escalators. The world is moving away from dependence on finite fossil fuels towards cleaner and healthier alternatives.
I believe that there are more than enough resources in this world to provide for each and every person and animal in this world. It is due to our excesses that resources are not equally distributed or are not protected. There is still not enough practical education on the subject of “sustainability” in schools and in institutions of higher learning. A paradigm shift in the way that we see our country, home and office like Norway’s ban on deforestation, Japan’s recycling programme and Finland’s renewable energy programme are examples of what is needed for us to respect what we take for granted, and to spark the fire of innovation in our young adults to continue to seek new ways to live a better and sustainable life.