THE Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change (NRECC) has emphasised the crucial role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia’s green transition.

Speaking at the Malaysia Institute of Management’s ESG conference, themed “Shared Responsibility, Shared Future, Uniting Stakeholders to Co-Create a Greener Malaysia,” NRECC Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (picture) said this is because SMEs form the backbone of the nation’s economy.

“If it is the multinational companies and the government-linked companies alone that are embracing sustainability, it is not enough,” he said.

He added that meaningful change can only be achieved if sustainability efforts are carried through by SMEs.

“Whenever we hear about ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and SDG (Sustainable Development Goals), I recognise that many in the corporate sector, in the private sector, see this as a cost,” he said.

He noted that even large corporations find sustainability initiatives costly and complicated, making it even more challenging for SMEs.

“If there is no planet left, then there is no business to be done,” Nik Nazmi said.

He urged businesses to look beyond short-term financial goals and consider the long-term impact of their actions on the environment.

The minister also highlighted Malaysia’s global commitments to sustainability and plastic pollution.

“Earlier this year, we took proactive steps at the Fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Ottawa, Canada, advocating for an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

“We tend to forget that Malaysia is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. And it is significant. It is something that we should be proud of,” he said.

Nik Nazmi stressed the importance of protecting this biodiversity, not only for Malaysia but for the world as a whole.

The minister outlined several government initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability such as the New Industrial Master Plan (NIMP) and the National Energy Transition Roadmap.

Nik Nazmi acknowledged that achieving these goals would require significant policy changes and difficult decisions.

“We have started with retargeting electric subsidies and the controversial diesel subsidies but we have to make these difficult decisions if we are to achieve those goals,” he emphasised.

He also highlighted the importance of human capital and capacity building for sustainability, especially at the SME level.

“The human element will always be important, even in this age of AI and high technology,” he noted.

Looking ahead to Malaysia’s Asean chairmanship in 2025, Nik Nazmi called for the country to take a leadership role in regional sustainability efforts.

“We must take a leadership role in the region to show what can be done with our businesses and what we can show to our neighbours with regards to sustainability and also a just transition,” he said.

Nik Nazmi reiterated that environmental sustainability is not a choice but a responsibility.

He called on SMEs to accelerate their green transformation efforts and share best practices with others in the sector.