Moving towards realizing the vision of developing Iskandar Malaysia into a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing, IRDA is taking efforts to create a low carbon society and to reduce the economic gaps. One of their efforts in creating a sustainable metropolis is to include local authorities and local communities in their journey towards building a low carbon society. IRDA has set up Koperasi Iskandar Malaysia Berhad (imCoop), a low carbon living lab and an avenue to create business opportunities for local communities. ImCoop was established on 14th November 2014, with a social mission to help curb the rising cost of living and to reduce the economic gaps among the people, especially in Johor.
Small businesses are already the foundation of most domestic economies. With the right tools and support, they could well become the foundation of sustainable economic growth too. Up till 2016 , according to the World Bank SMEs account for 97% of businesses and 67% of employment in our country (see: https://leaderonomics.com/functional/malaysias-sme-landscape-today). SMEs contribute up to 36% of our GDP. This GDP contribution decides if Malaysia can transition into a high-income economy or not, according to the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice (see: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/07/05/small-is-the-new-big---malaysian-smes-help-energize-drive-economy
Today, with its multiple retail formats and advanced supply and value chain, serving the varied needs and interests of people from all walks of life, imCoop has kept its pace with the changing needs of its customers, while remaining committed to its social mission and its aspiration to be Johor’s leading retailer, with a deep passion to excel. Their main working area are agriculture and tourism.
In the effort to translate the topics of low carbon, green events and sustainability into layman’s terms, we conducted “Bicara by Biji-biji”, an interactive talk session. We created discourse on sustainable event curation to stimulate the minds of stakeholders and promote knowledge sharing, especially. This session broke the complexities of global issues and make it comprehensible by regular Malaysians. The IRDA session had 30 participants, consisting of Local Authorities, officers, and local communities. The topic revolved around sustainable event management, incorporating sub-topics on: food & drinks, transportation, accommodation, suppliers and waste management.
This bicara session identified problems faced in day-to-day business operations of the co-op members such as low catches of fish which is hurting local fishermen and rising living cost, lack of efficient recycling collection system, lack of awareness of the importance of recycling, environmental impacts of tourism (mountain track/trails, water/sea and others). They also shared the better alternative and practices that they currently use to reuse generated waste. One of the co-ops upcycle water bottles collected along their hiking trails into gifts for visitors. They also use pineapple and banana fiber to make paper and thread.
The group also pointed out that Johorians could tap into the business opportunities or market available through buy local movement, due to their strategic location with Singapore. The group also brainstormed on how to to implement low carbon initiatives within the villagers capacity and ways to create jobs opportunity through these initiatives. Bicara also exposed the participants to the new ways of promoting businesses such as AirBnB - to promote their homestays.
Bicara sessions are a good tool to create awareness among general public on certain issues, to gain information on a topic of local expertise, a stakeholder engagement approach, and a way to just chill and talk about things that matters. The three hours session was a successful session in capturing the mindset of the participants and planting new ideas on sustainability among them.