AS the world grapples with Covid-19 and businesses take measures to ensure survivability post pandemic, it is even more important for companies to think sustainably.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices, which relate to sustainability in a company's business model, how it manages its operations to minimise negative impact and how its products and services contribute to sustainable development, are increasingly being adopted by companies.
At Sunway Group, ESG is not just the latest buzzword, but is something that has been embedded into its DNA, having seamlessly integrated the ESG framework into its culture.
Aiming to be Asia's model corporation for sustainable development, Sunway's ESG compliance framework seeks to communicate the company's sustainability strategy and vision towards creating long-term value for investors and other stakeholders.
Incorporating ESG practices are also in line with Sunway's commitment to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs), 17 integrated goals which were adopted by the UN in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, among others, by 2030.
Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah has often said that no corporation can live apart from the community that it serves.
"We strongly believe that we can do well by doing good. ESG practices contribute to a company's overall risk management strategy. Our own experience here at Sunway demonstrates that sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand.
"From my personal experience as an entrepreneur, I know that building a sustainable business requires not just excellence in the present but keeping an eye on the future.
"Given the state of the planet and its people, perhaps the real question is not whether we should commit to sustainable development but whether we can afford not to do so," he said.
Sunway has seen remarkable progress in becoming ESG compliant as the group's goals and visions were already aligned with the UN-SDGs.
As an example, Sunway's flagship development in Sunway City Kuala Lumpur (SCKL) is widely acclaimed as a wasteland-turned-wonderland success story.
A tin mine was rehabilitated and rejuvenated into a bustling and thriving integrated township. Instead of more deforestation for urban expansion, the ecosystem as well as the flora and fauna were restored from a piece of brownfield land previously full of abandoned mining pools, with no greenery at all.
Since then, SCKL has won numerous awards and among its more recent recognitions include Malaysia's first Green Integrated Township, Low Carbon City, Smart Sustainable Development, and the top prize at this year's Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards.
Sunway is constantly learning from its partners and other experts in the field, including the UN Sustainable Development Network and the Jeffrey Sachs Center that it established here at Sunway University in SCKL.
Today, it stands proud as a "living laboratory" with three research-intensive and internationally recognised universities.
Sunway Group executive director of the chairman's office, Ong Pang Yen, said while ESG is not an "end" in itself, it is a good and effective regulatory instrument to raise awareness and push corporate citizens towards collectively achieving the UN-SDGs.
From Sunway's perspective, embracing ESG has allowed it to be well prepared for all eventualities. Although the group is heavily involved in the hospitality and leisure sectors, both of which are worst hit by the pandemic, it has been able to weather the pandemic storm and fulfil its commitment of paying dividends to its shareholders, which speaks volumes of its sustainability strategy.
Among others, Sunway has also established a standalone sustainability committee on its board to oversee the group's sustainability agenda.
It has standardised ethical business practices across its facilities in strict compliance with government regulations and its core values of integrity, humility and excellence, putting in place policies on industrial relations, recruitment as well as learning and development.
Sunway also believes in creating an inspiring and responsible workplace where its staff can build rewarding careers and ultimately create a positive impact on the environment and local communities.
It is committed to providing fair work opportunities and respecting labour and human rights, as well as investing in the safety, health, wellbeing and development of its employees.
Sunway's embrace of ESG and its sustainability agenda is driven by a strong and deep conviction to not just do the right thing, but do things right at all times.
All of its stakeholders are also aligned and supportive of the group's commitment to ESG compliance.
As Cheah aptly puts it: "Advancing the UN-SDGs is not the sole responsibility of governments. It requires the commitment of all sectors of society – the private sector, academia, civil society and every individual. We are all in this together."