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CSR and Creating Sustainability

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Steve McCoy, Founder and Managing Director of Counterpoint Sdn Bhd, one of the speakers at the summit.

The CSR and Sustainability Summit 2011, organized by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI).

A roundtable session moderated by Dato’ Ghazali Dato’ Mohd Yusoff (2nd from left) at the CSR & Sustainability Summit 2011.

By : Lawrence Julius

Not so long ago, Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) was but a mere checklist of tasks to fulfill a short-term gain for business growth. Today however, the world has changed into a place where the consumers are more sensitive to the moral obligations of a company. The Earth herself has sent out various warning signs and the green issue has never been as widespread as it is today. Businesses now are expected to operate within the ‘moral market space’, and sustainability has become a factor that goes hand-in-hand with CSR.

Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water,  YB Dato’ Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui says CSR has become more important than ever before. He said this in his speech at the official opening of the CSR & Sustainability Summit 2011, organized by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI). The event was held at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on June 27.

“Companies are increasingly being judged by consumers, investors and employees based on the perceived corporate morality of the company,” said YB Dato’ Sri Peter.

It is true that in today’s fragile world, stakeholders are more sensitive when it comes to CSR – and for the better. The market place was once driven solely by profit and loss, influenced by supply and demand. But to become a competitive force in the present world, a company must play an active role and have a firm CSR and sustainability base in place. CSR should not be seen as just a response to externally prescribed measures, but as an essential business strategy.  

There is no doubt that with the ailing health of our planet, the importance of CSR and sustainability has heightened. YB Dato’ Sri Peter adds, “Green technology is the vehicle that will bring us towards green growth.”

He urges everyone to rethink growth and how we can all grow sustainably. A greener path is the core, and its convergence into the Triple Bottom Line of CSR; the three ‘P’s of Profit (Economic), People (Society) and Planet (Environment) is very important.

In 2006, Bursa Malaysia launched the CSR Framework as a guide for private limited companies (PLC) in implementing and reporting on CSR. Effective from Dec 31, 2007, all public-listed companies along with their subsidiaries were required to disclose their CSR activities. And this was further reinforced in the recent Budget 2011, which among others require PLCs to disclose their CSR activities and providing encouragement for good CSR practices.

On the global front, CSR and sustainability plays an important role to attract foreign investors into the country. Malaysia must recognize that non-financial reporting can have a vast effect on investor confidence. Multi-national companies around the world has improved non-financial reporting to maintain market confidence as they move on an ethical path. Employees will also thrive within a company with a good CSR program. 

Bursa Malaysia is also stepping up to the plate, with a bid to establish the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Index within the next few years. This local bourse will scan all listed companies, and selecting the best rated and best suited for the ESG Index. The ever increasing interest and awareness in this area will hopefully attract investors and pave the way for the CSR and sustainability trend to thrive.

How about aiming higher? We all know that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the main indicator of a nation’s economy. Its final measure is based on the market value of everything produced within a country and the world’s nations are ranked through the GDP. This is the way we measure a country’s stature, but is the economy the best source to determine a country’s well-being?

Is the economy sustainable? The GDP is a somewhat flawed indicator in the sense that; it does not show the distribution of wealth among the people, does not necessarily measure the advancements or growth of a nation, and most of all it is not sustainable. The GDP may indicate a number today, but fall to its lowest low the next. That said, it is not that we should do away with the GDP, all we need is to have an indicator to measure sustainability. Instead of following others, we have the opportunity to set ourselves as a nation apart and set the trend.

CSR and sustainability is thankfully trending for the better in our country, even though this is but a small stroke within a bigger picture. The corporations should be setting the example, rightly giving back to the community and the planet, creating more CSR initiatives in line with sustainability. The Earth is changing with all of us in it, like it or not. And it’s not an option anymore, it’s a responsibility.