The global building and construction industry has been paying greater attention to matters relating to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Quoting a United Nations report, the World Economic Forum noted that the operation and construction of buildings accounted for more than a third of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020.

Meanwhile, management consultants McKinsey estimated that nearly 40% of global emissions in 2021 came from the construction industry. With its high reliance on labour, industry players also have to consider the welfare of their workers. And on the governance side, the failure of massive Chinese property developer Evergrande illustrates the need for greater transparency and better governance across the board.

While all aspects of ESG deserve attention, construction industry players – especially in Malaysia – has set their sights on tackling the most visible issue: ensuring the environmental sustainability of the industry. According to Allianz Commercial, ESG considerations on the environmental front for the building and construction industry revolve around material selection, more sustainable construction methods, new and innovative technologies, and the reduce/reuse/recycle waste and resource management system.

This includes using advanced construction techniques such as the Industrialised Building System (IBS), but most importantly, it involves the search for the most sustainable and ‘green’ building materials. There are many such materials – such as bamboo, straw, clay – but one of the most popular materials is timber and wooden products from sustainable sources, which is where Malaysia’s timber industry comes in.

Timber as a building material has been in use for millennia, and aside from its inherent ‘green’ attributes due to it being a carbon sink and the fact that it can be reused and recycled throughout its entire lifecycle, has several other advantages that make it an excellent alternative to conventional materials such as concrete and steel.

For one, timber is lighter and easier to work with, which makes it easier to machine (or even prefabricated offsite) and saves on time, labour, and transport costs. An indirect benefit of using timber is that because it’s lighter while providing equivalent or comparable structural strength, it reduces the amount of other materials used, such as the concrete for the foundation. Interestingly enough, timber products are durable and can be made fireproof. Timber is also an effective insulator, beating out glass, metals, and concrete.

The recent advent of newer advanced and engineered wood products such as cross-laminated timber and glue-laminated timber (sometimes called mass timber products) have the potential to add to the sustainability of timber products as a whole, while offering the same or better advantages of traditional timber products (such as the structural strength of steel/concrete and fireproof properties). Mass timber can be produced from small-dimension lumber or even waste/recycled wood or offcuts, optimising timber usage. They’re more predictably manufactured, resulting in less wastage, and can be provided to customers in a customised and pre-cut fashion. They are also more energy-efficient to manufacture.

Construction industry players also need to start thinking about ESG reporting requirements, which are already in place for many publicly-listed companies on Bursa Malaysia and will in any case be demanded by customers. Sourcing your timber or timber products from ESG-ready and certified manufacturers or providers can help with reducing regulatory compliance workloads in several different ways. Firstly, they can help with increasing visibility on ESG-related matters in supply and value chains. Secondly, they can provide peace of mind to companies and customers alike that the materials being used are sustainable.

The Malaysian Wood Moulding and Joinery Council (MWMJC) can help companies across the building and construction ecosystem by connecting them with its members that actively implement and pursue ESG initiatives and certifications. For more information, visit its website at or call the Secretariat at +603-9283 7893.