• Vol 9, No 8 (2018)
  • Civil Engineering

Environmental Technological Innovation and Its Contribution to Sustainable Development

Muhammad Fakhrul Yusuf, Hasbullah Ashari, Mohd Rizal Razalli


Cite this article as:
Yusuf, M.F., Ashari, H.Razalli, M.R., 2018. Environmental Technological Innovation and Its Contribution to Sustainable Development. International Journal of Technology. Volume 9(8), pp.1569-1578
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Muhammad Fakhrul Yusuf Faculty of Industrial Management, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Lebuhraya Tun Razak, 26300 Gambang Kuantan, Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia - School of Technology Management & Logistic, Universiti Utara M
Hasbullah Ashari School of Technology Management & Logistic, Universiti Utara Malaysia, 06010 UUM Sintok, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia
Mohd Rizal Razalli School of Technology Management & Logistic, Universiti Utara Malaysia, 06010 UUM Sintok, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia
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Abstract
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Globally, global warming, resource depletion, and increased solid waste volumes have become major concerns for international governments. This paper aims to address Malaysia’s competitiveness in the context of global environmental change by analyzing firms that have incorporated environmental technological innovation (ET innovation) in their operations. This paper illustrates the connections between ET innovation and sustainable development and discusses the implementation of ET innovation at a firm level. The firms selected for this study focused on the whole spectrum of ET innovation when implementing their environmental technologies. These firms also targeted international markets with their eco-products and green technologies. However, we established that they need to become more market-oriented during the development of their products and technologies so that they address market needs. The involvement of firms in ET innovation requires significant investment in R&D and the proper management of resources to be successful.

Concept relationship diagram; Environmental innovation; Malaysia; Review, Sustainable development

Introduction

The concept of sustainable development was first proposed as early as the 1980s. It was initially defined as taking into account the effects of social, economic, and ecological factors, in addition to the living and non-living resource base, with consideration of current and future population needs and the long- and short-term advantages and disadvantages of alternative development activity (WCED, 1987; Dalal-Clayton & Bass, 2000). Sustainable development requires that nations take the necessary precautions and implement preventative activities in the areas of technology, science, and politics to ensure global sustainability. For example, each development program should consider the regenerative and absorptive capacities of materials and energy and maintain its output growth below the stipulated threshold stated by the UN and agreed by the government of the country (Gladwin et al., 1995).

New technologies can offer new methods to handle identified international preventative and precautionary obligations while saving resources and reducing consumption. They are also key to economic growth and competitive advantage, which makes them very important in the fight against poverty. At the same time, they can mitigate against practices that threaten the environment through the unsustainable use of resources (WCED, 1987; Porter, 1990). Notwithstanding, new technologies can also produce new ways to pollute and alter the earth’s natural evolutionary progress (WCED, 1987). It is therefore important for technological and scientific researchers to be responsible and take precautions against these possibilities (Gladwin et al., 1995). In addition, it is difficult for industry to control a technology by simply adopting it. To maintain control of technology, firms need to implement environmental technological innovation (ET innovation) as a sustainable development tool (Elkington, 1994; Kemp, 2010).

Accordingly, it is important to understand the contribution and relationship of ET innovation with eco-innovation, innovation, and ultimately, sustainable development. In the case of the Malaysian manufacturing industry in particular, it is imperative to demonstrate that the implementation of ET innovation is genuine and the issues being addressed are tangible. This study briefly describes a few examples of ET innovation in Malaysia using case studies of selected firms. The explanations in the subsections are based on the concept relationship diagram in Figure 1 (BSI/ISO, 2015). We then examine current ET innovation implementation in the manufacturing industry in Malaysia. Section 2 explains the methodology used while the implications are discussed in Section 3, with our conclusions in Section 4.

1.1.    Sustainable Development

Sustainability is one of the most debated terms in the modern era (Seghezzo, 2009). The term was first used in the environmental sense by Hans Carl von Carlowitz, a German forester, in his book Sylvicultura Oeconomica (1712) in which he described how forests can be managed on a long-term basis. In the late 1960s and 1970s, an environmental movement started to emerge. Environmentalists were keen to adopt the concept of “greening the economy” so that environmental issues could be related to economic development (Turcu, 2013).

In 1969, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Honorary Mr. U Thant, stressed the long-term problems of modern man, which at that time included the arms race, environmental deterioration, the population explosion, and economic stagnation. There were several debates about the limited carrying capacity of the planet, which would hinder economic growth from continuing indefinitely. This was recorded in the controversial report Limits to Growth, which was commissioned by the Club of Rome. At the beginning of the 1970s, technologists also started to shift their emphasis and, alongside the technical and economic focus of their existing approach, added social and ecological implications (Meadows et al., 1972; Pansera, 2012).

The term “sustainable development” was first used in Stockholm at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. However, the first official definition was only introduced by a three-partite union in the World Conservation Strategy (WCS) report in 1980: “For development to be sustainable, it must take account of social and ecological factors, as well as economic ones; of the living and non-living resource base; and of the long-term as well as the short-term advantages and disadvantages of alternative action” (Kruja, 2013). In the WCS report, the union, which consisted of the former International Union for Conservation of Nature (now the World Conservation Union), the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Wildlife Fund, advocated for balance in development and conservation in attempt to secure the earth for people to live in comfort and happiness (Dalal-Clayton & Bass, 2000; Pansera, 2012). This sparked an effort to develop the Brundtland Report in 1987. The Brundtland Commission provided a definition for sustainable development that continues to be used today. It stated: “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987).

The 1987 Brundtland Commission Report on sustainable development focused on the three broad areas of environmental, economic, and social activities (Figure 1[a]). Each area contributes to and disrupts the others in a special relationship that was initially advocated by Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring, which was published in 1962 (WCED, 1987; Giddings et al., 2002).

For sustainable development to be achieved and the well-being of present and future generations to be improved, technological innovation and social organization needs to be enhanced. Social organization can be improved and managed through innovation at institutional, national, and international levels (WCED, 1987). Innovation in organizations and technology are parts of the concept of eco-innovation. Nevertheless, it must also be emphasized that environmental thinking must be embedded in all aspects of social, political, and economic activities for the concept of sustainable development to succeed. Therefore, it can be concluded that eco-innovation has a direct relationship with the concept of sustainable development, as shown in Figure 1[b] (Elkington, 1994; Kemp, 2010).

 

 

Conclusion

The possible contribution of ET innovation toward achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals has been explained in this paper through the concept relationship diagram. This diagram can be used as a guideline for research and activities with sustainability objectives.

The information obtained from the firms in our study indicated some of the trends in the manufacturing industry in Malaysia. However, further empirical analysis and a different scope would be valuable in understanding what the Malaysian industry can contribute to sustainable development initiatives through the implementation of ET innovation.

Acknowledgement

The authors would like to thank the management of the firms that participated in this research for their valuable cooperation as well as the anonymous reviewers for their comments. Some similarities may be found with the authors’ article in a different journal. These are not intentional because the focus is different.

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