Cover Story: Increased awareness of sustainability amid Covid-19

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 30, 2021 - September 05, 2021.
Increased awareness of sustainability amid Covid-19

Increased awareness of sustainability amid Covid-19

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The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted almost everything globally, causing deaths and unprecedented lockdowns as well as increasing the unemployment rate. At the same time, people and businesses have become more aware of the need to take sustainability more seriously.

In a November 2020 report titled “Rethinking ESG in a post Covid-19 world”, PwC Malaysia notes that the pandemic is a wake-up call to address the need for more sustainable practices, adding that it is an opportunity for businesses to build trust with their stakeholders by showing their commitment to addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

Many Malaysian businesses had their sustainability plans in place even before the outbreak of the pandemic, especially the listed companies, as sustainability reporting has been made mandatory by Bursa Malaysia.

In this article, some of the Top 10 recipients of The Edge Malaysia Top Property Developers Awards 2020 share with City & Country their sustainability journey, especially the environmental and social aspects, as well as the challenges they face.

One of the top two targets in Mah Sing’s sustainability efforts is to plant 50% of native species on average by 2025. Also, the group has always looked to increase its allocation of green spaces beyond the mandatory 10%, and most of the developments under Mah Sing’s M-Series have 25% of green spaces.

Furthermore, through careful plant selection of native species, we would be able to ensure that these green spaces would be capable of supporting local biodiversity and use less water, pesticide and fertiliser, while maintaining healthy green spaces. 

In terms of energy and emission reduction targets, Star Avenue Lifestyle Mall (a shopping mall owned by the group) is aiming to reduce 20% of energy consumption intensity by 2025 through various energy efficiency initiatives in the pipeline.

Annual Corporate Responsibility Day by M’Power (the group’s volunteerism programme) is one of the main activities under the social aspect that Mah Sing carries out annually. Since its launch in 2018, altruism and volunteerism among Mah Sing employees have increased steadily, with a total of 1,780 volunteer hours clocked in 2019 alone, involving 445 volunteers across the group, including employees from the Klang Valley, Johor and Penang. 

Among the key initiatives carried out in 2019 were cleaning the surrounding areas of Perumahan Awam Seri Kelantan, partnering with Malaysian Nature Society to clean up Kuala Sungai Buloh River, packing 10,000 meals with Rise Against Hunger, beach cleaning at Desaru Beach, and upgrading existing facilities at Penang National Park. 

Over 550kg of rubbish was collected from the Sungai Buloh River during Mah Sing’s Corporate Responsibility Day in November 2019 (Photo by Mah Sing Group)

While the Covid-19 pandemic has hindered the execution of events, members of M’Power have continued to volunteer for programmes run by the Mah Sing Foundation and are currently planning ahead.

Meanwhile, Mah Sing continues to increase the use of environmentally friendly materials and products in its property developments. The group prioritises materials, fittings and practices that have a lower environmental impact such as low volatile organic compounds emulsion paint, eco-friendly building blocks and roof thermal insulation foam, green-labelled tiles, energy-efficient lighting at common areas, water-efficient fittings and rainwater harvesting systems.

We also prioritise passive design concepts to reduce heat gain in buildings whenever possible, such as through having a north-south orientation, and natural ventilation and lighting at public and circulation spaces.

Dedicated walkways and cycling networks with proper signage and secure bicycle parking spaces are provided to encourage low-carbon mobility wherever possible. There are also electric vehicle charging stations at selected projects to encourage the adoption of such vehicles. 

The higher investment cost of sustainable buildings is one of the main challenges in adopting sustainability efforts as it is not the priority of homebuyers. Also, there is a lack of information and awareness on the long-term benefits.

Nevertheless, we have noticed a gradual shift in public sentiment in recent years as the public is now more aware of environmental issues and the sentiment may translate into their purchasing decisions in the future.

We believe developers will need to strike a balance between the demand for affordability and integrating green initiatives in their developments. 

Another challenge is the high cost and insufficient knowledge of new sustainable technologies or materials. There is a lack of confidence in their performance and benefits, hampering their adoption due to the complexity of these technologies or a lack of sufficient data on sustainable materials.

This challenge can be overcome with the appropriate push and financial incentives from the government or regulatory authorities in terms of policies that advocate innovative sustainable technologies, such as industrialised building systems and building information modelling. With the support of the government’s friendly policies and incentives, businesses will be more empowered to adopt sustainability measures.

EcoWorld’s SAP supports the educational needs of underprivileged students in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor (Photo by Eco World Development Group)

We have embarked on a pilot project to ascertain the extent of carbon capture by the shrubs and trees in our developments. We have identified several species of vegetation to determine their carbon absorption rates, as part of the data to be used as a reference point for our data collection. This initiative will give a better measurable idea of how our landscaping efforts have contributed towards lowering EcoWorld’s carbon footprint. 

In April 2021, EcoWorld was accepted as a participant of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). We have since engaged closely with the UNGC’s Malaysia & Brunei chapter on various platforms. We aim to increase our collaborative engagements with the UNGC and other networks to learn more about how we can further improve our ESG performance. 

In terms of the environmental aspect, our landscape planning and design sees the natural and built environments working together to generate multiple benefits for the community through the creation of a sustainable ecosystem where humans, animals and plant life can coexist in harmony.

Our green infrastructure planning protects the natural environment through the use of horticultural science, artful composition and spatial organisation to create recreational spaces for the community and functional outdoor habitats to preserve and promote biodiversity. EcoWorld has planted over 75,000 trees of various species in our developments, contributing to the absorption of carbon generated within our built environments. Landscape elements such as pollinator gardens and ecological drains provide food sources and shelter for many species of animals, insects and birds, creating new ecosystems within our environments. We also grow local herbs such as pandan, basil and lemongrass in the edible gardens in our townships for the residents. 

For the social aspect, the Students Aid Programme (SAP) — an initiative of Eco World Foundation since 2014 — supports the educational needs of underprivileged primary, secondary and tertiary students in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor. In addition to monetary assistance, the foundation regularly checks in with students and their families to see how they are coping. Motivational sessions are conducted for the students, while dialogue sessions are held with their parents to stress the importance of education and to encourage parents to keep their children in school. 

Families of many students under the SAP are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The foundation has stepped in to provide financial assistance to some of these families to ensure that they have food and basic necessities. 

Our choice of name, “EcoWorld”,  and vision, “Creating Tomorrow & Beyond”,  are statements that show sustainability is key to our existence as a corporate entity. While this is a challenge for a property developer, we have endeavoured to create a culture where sustainability is embedded throughout the organisation. 

This is reflected in the composition of our Sustainability Committee that involves all executive C-suites, divisional general managers and our charity arm, Eco World Foundation. We seek to cover every component of the business via a holistic value-creation model that balances the needs of all stakeholders in the pursuit of both sustainability and profitability. Our journey has also been made easier by our young team of employees who are aware of, and enthusiastic about, environmental issues.

The challenge is in spreading awareness among the community and obtaining their buy-in to participate in green initiatives, which we are confident is achievable with continued and consistent efforts at raising awareness.

A greater challenge is obtaining accurate and meaningful data from suppliers and contractors for reporting and analysis purposes. While measurement is an important element in sustainability reporting, the priority in this pandemic lies in keeping the supply chains alive and costs low to be able to deliver affordable homes to homebuyers. Accordingly, we are taking a measured step-by-step approach to not create undue stress in these turbulent times. As we learn and improve in our sustainability journey, we also aim to help improve awareness and educate our supply chain so that we can progress together.

Sustainability is deeply rooted in the core values, vision and mission of Sunway Group, driving the group’s direction and operations. Sustainability is not merely a target, but a philosophy that guides our daily behaviour in building for a more sustainable future.

At the group level, a governance framework has been introduced to measure five goals to benchmark against our yearly performance. They are:

•    Goal 1: Transforming our portfolios to low-carbon sustainable cities;

•    Goal 2: Advocating a responsible value chain;

•      Goal 3: Developing a safe, equal and dignified workforce;

•      Goal 4: Investing in community inclusivity; and

•      Goal 5: Respecting ethical principles

The two goals that are more visible to our position as a master community developer are Goals 1 and 4. 

Our flagship Sunway City Kuala Lumpur (SCKL) is Malaysia’s first Green Building Index-certified sustainable city and was recently accorded Diamond status by the Ministry of Environment and Water, which recognises SCKL as a low-carbon city.

Following SCKL’s success, we have proceeded to replicate and remodel cities throughout Malaysia, achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to create smart sustainable cities and communities. We aspire to build a better tomorrow by creating integrated spaces where communities can live, learn, work and play in a safe, healthy and connected environment.

Leveraging our unique build-own-operate business model, we create a unique win-win proposition in sustainable communities where future generations can continue to thrive. 

Student volunteers helping with the harvesting at Sunway FutureX Farm, an urban farm innovation hub (Photo by Sunway)

For the environmental aspect, in Goal 1, one of our key targets is for all Sunway-owned and/or managed townships as well as buildings to be completed from 2025 to receive green building certifications. As at FY2020, six buildings targeted for completion from 2025 are in the process of applying for green building certifications. 

We have also invested in several core energy-saving programmes, including installing solar power wherever possible as a renewable energy source and water treatment plants to ensure continuous water supply to protect the environment, businesses and communities we serve. 

Tree planting, energy efficiency, renewable energy and waste management have helped reduce 11,611 tonnes of CO2e emissions. We have also reduced water consumption by 28% compared to 2019 and diverted 4% of waste from landfills through food composting machines and collection of obsolete gadgets and digital devices for recycling. By 2030, we hope to have at least 25% of electricity generated from renewable sources, divert 40% of our waste from landfills and reduce overall intensity from municipal potable water supply by 10%. 

We endeavour to transform all our townships into sustainable smart cities, in line with the Malaysia Smart City framework established by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which envisions smart cities as developed cities with integrated technologies to address urban challenges and supported by increased economic activities and urban innovation.

For the social aspect, in Goal 4, our key targets are to support the national Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 to address inequality and wealth and income disparities by assisting the underserved and B40 communities, with a target to impact one million Malaysians by 2030 through our #SunwayforGood corporate social responsibility initiatives.

As a master community developer, we always put our communities first. At the onset of the pandemic, we moved fast and offered assistance wherever possible, whether through food donations or monetary or healthcare support for the most vulnerable communities, and by participating in operating PPVs (vaccination centres) to accelerate the vaccination efforts of the nation. 

Sustainability is no longer an option but a responsibility; however, the capacity and readiness differ for different organisations and individuals. We believe people are convinced of this necessity but may need education and guidance on how to approach the efforts in a financially sustainable manner.

Thus, at the group level, we have invested in the Jeffrey Sachs Centre to help promote and facilitate public-private sector engagements towards policy development. Recently, SCKL was selected as one of the three overarching United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network centres, alongside New York City and Paris, to coordinate continent-wide sustainability initiatives in Asia, the Americas and Europe/Africa respectively. The Covid-19 pandemic is a reminder that we are all in this together, and that everyone — the government, the private sector, academia, civil society and every single individual — has a role to play in building a sustainable future for all.

For this year, it will be our mission to make a big push in institutionalising sustainability efforts with the appointment of subject matter experts and an expansion of the sustainability team, which will report directly to the CEO. This will solidify our commitment to ensuring that sustainability becomes a culture in the organisation, whereby day-to-day decisions and processes will involve considering the economic, social and environmental risks and opportunities.

Among the three pillars of sustainability (ESG) as assessed by FTSE Russel via the FTSE4Good Bursa Malaysia Index, we did best in governance. We received a full five marks in the pillar as a result of our efforts to be transparent and accountable.

At the same time, efforts are being made to improve our standing in the other two pillars — beginning with the social aspect, which is to establish a sustainable value chain within our business operations. To achieve this, we hope to encourage immediate stakeholders, including vendors and suppliers, to align their business aspirations with our sustainability objectives. 

Secondly, we aim to ramp up efforts in managing the environmental impact of our business operations. We have started the process via the introduction of our own Product Development Sustainability Guide for Residential Developments last year. We want to implant a sustainability genomic trait in our future products by referring to this guide. We will also begin to consciously measure our impact, whether it is carbon footprint, material consumption or, ultimately, the life cycle impact of our projects. 

Eventually, we target to seamlessly integrate sustainable processes within every point of our projects’ life cycle and other ancillary business procedures. For example, we estimate that we have reduced our total greenhouse gas emissions by 97%, or 2.7 tonnes CO2e, by having a virtual annual general meeting this year, compared to our last physical meet in 2019. Having this kind of data will help us make more informed decisions in the future.

UEM Sunrise’s BukuHub is a mini library or community reading space that provides people with easy access to books (Photo by UEM Sunrise)

For the environmental aspect, our flagship retail development, Publika Shopping Gallery, has teamed up with Kloth Malaysia — a Malaysian social entrepreneurship movement dedicated to keeping fabrics away from landfills through the circular economy business model — since 2020. The shopping mall is also working with ERTH (BlueBee Technologies), a social enterprise that focuses on electronic waste recycling. Through strategically placed bins in Publika, we have collected close to 205kg of fabrics from items such as clothes, bags and toys, as well as 250kg of e-waste such as bulbs, cables and batteries.

For the social aspect, UEM Sunrise has initiated a flagship programme known as BukuHub — a mini library or community reading space — with the intention of giving people easy access to books and offering them the opportunity to improve their lives through reading. 

Since its establishment in 2019, UEM Sunrise has set up 11 BukuHub in our communities. The group has also adopted 21 schools under the Pintar School Adoption Programme — UEM Sunrise’s longest flagship programme — to help raise their academic performance. The programme has directly benefitted more than 100,000 students and teachers through education enhancement initiatives since it was launched in 2008. 

We have also launched Publika Live, a placemaking initiative that prioritises showcasing local independent musicians who have been severely impacted by the Movement Control Order, and that maintains Publika as a community platform for engaging with performance and fine art. 

The main challenge, which we believe is not exclusive to the company, is the varying understanding of the sustainability agenda. There is no denying that some form of awareness on sustainability exists in our society, but its concept and substance are still beyond the comprehension of most and this could deter, if not impede, any aspirations made with regard to sustainability. 

Having a common benchmark to address the matter is vital to ensure the effectiveness of rolling out ESG initiatives. This can only be accomplished when everyone as well as our external stakeholders refers to the same sustainability playbook. Similarly, it is challenging to effectively measure the outcome of such efforts and the performance of products developed in line with the sustainability agenda. The idea here is to make adopting sustainability easy, which in turn creates a more lasting motivational drive when pursuing sustainable objectives, no matter how big or small.

In June this year, Gamuda Bhd announced its Gamuda Green Plan that sets forth tangible targets driven by ESG dimensions for the next five years and beyond. The plan commits the entire group to circular construction, with specific steps to reduce direct and indirect corporate greenhouse gas emission intensity.

Over the years, as a group, Gamuda has mapped out various ESG strategies across its business units to create value for the triple bottom line of profit, people and planet. The commitment is also underlined by the group’s decision in 2020 to include sustainability as a key management risk.

The Gamuda Green Plan is anchored on four key pillars:

•     Sustainable planning and design, circular construction: To facilitate sustainable master-planning featuring climate-responsive design, integrated transport and super-low-energy buildings with smart features;

•      Our community and our business: To develop talent capabilities and cultivate good governance in ESG;

•      Environmental and biodiversity conservation: To drive impactful efforts in nature conservation and biodiversity stewardship in its townships and property developments; and

•      Enhancing sustainability via digitalisation: To leverage technology and data management to enhance group-wide efforts in sustainable development.

For the environmental dimension, the Gamuda Green Plan also outlines various initiatives for our townships to reach a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. These include a 35% reduction in urban planning emissions with sustainable master-planning, 10% reduction in transport emissions through green mobility plans and low-carbon commuting networks, 40% reduction in non-renewable energy use, 65% reduction in freshwater demand and 50% reduction in landfill waste in closing the waste loop.

The 90-acre Forest Park in Gamuda Cove, part of the group’s efforts to achieve a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions (Photo by Gamuda Land)

Gamuda Parks will intensify its biodiversity conservation by establishing a wetlands arboretum in Gamuda Cove with a forest seed bank for native species, as well as developing internal capabilities in the areas of arboriculture and horticulture through partnerships with the indigenous community.

This is on top of the ongoing initiative to nurture and plant one million trees and saplings through its Advanced Tree Planting programme and biodiversity audits in every Gamuda Land township as part of Gamuda Parks’ scope.

For the social aspect, Gamuda Land has rolled out GL Cares during the pandemic to help those in our surrounding community by delivering food items and daily essentials to those in need, including workers in our centralised labour quarters. 

Gamuda Parks has been extensively engaging with the Orang Asli community as part of Gamuda’s native community social-development initiatives:

•      Upskilling project (sewing reusable masks): Partnering with The Asli Co, it helps upskill women in Kg Bukit Cheding through provision of machinery and materials needed for face masks — which are sold to corporations — making them self-sufficient income earners;

•      Farm-to-mouth project: It helps the Orang Asli plant their own edible gardens, enough for their family and even to sell their harvest. They were taught the importance of addressing food security issues;

•      Wild tree seed bank: Through funding with Binturong Alam Ventures, over one thousand seedlings, comprising native forest tree species, were provided to the Orang Asli. The programme supports Gamuda Land’s #OneMillionTrees movement while providing sustainable income for the villagers as they search for seeds in the virgin forest and propagate them at the nursery in the village; and

•      Education programme: Plans are underway to distribute tablets, supported by WiFi, to Orang Asli schools. On top of that, qualified teachers have been engaged to provide additional classes for the students to improve their literacy.

Other community programmes include Yayasan Gamuda’s Enabling Academy, the Gamuda Scholarship and the Star Golden Hearts Award.

The main challenge in adopting sustainability efforts is finding the right balance to build a sustainable economic growth model that does not compromise the environment. We need a comprehensive plan, forward-looking approach and innovative solutions to address the challenges in driving sustainability efforts.

The set targets in the Gamuda Green Plan will guide our people to be mindful in our efforts such as careful land use planning and effective pollution control during the early stages of master-planning to ensure that environmental sustainability as well as economic viability are integrated and made mutually supportive.

As a responsible corporate citizen, we hold our eco-centric developments close to our heart and continue to play a role in conserving the environment, empowering communities and positively influencing the locations in which we operate. Through careful planning, we strive to protect the natural environment and minimise climate impact before, during and after development. Our developments continue to thrive and evolve with the needs of our communities in a manner that underlines our commitment to sustainability. 

We are guided by our corporate responsibility charter, “Building Sustainable Communities for All”, which was framed to express our goals and aspirations as a corporate citizen. It encompasses three areas of interest, namely environment, community and organisation. Our focus is on promoting sustainability within our organisation, the communities we are engaged in and the nation at large.

One of our long-standing sustainability efforts is driving sustainable smart developments. To do this, we have established an internal task force — Technical Excellence Committee — where key personnel and representatives from each of our developments are responsible for reviewing and enhancing the developments’ technical requirements with the objective of ensuring the offerings are the latest relevant sustainable and smart innovations in the industry.

An example of our sustainability efforts is the master-planning of Setia Alam, our flagship development, where the notion of “Sustainability is built-in, not bolted on” can be seen. The design philosophy that fuels the sustainability imperative at Setia Alam is both consistent and comprehensive.

The design thinking was anchored to various checkpoints to embed sustainability concepts and nuances, ultimately leading to a growing and viable township. About RM198 million was invested in developing connectivity between the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) and Setia Alam, 10,000 job opportunities were created and 400 acres were designated as parks and secondary green zones.

Setia Eco Glades offers 24 acres of public space, with facilities like a children’s playground and jogging track (Photo by S P Setia)

As for the impact on the social sphere, all of our developments are designed with the community in mind. Take Setia Eco Glades, where about 30% of the township, or about 80 acres, is allocated for parks, gardens, waterways and communal spaces. This goes above the minimum 10% requirement set by the regulators to create a more enjoyable outdoor space that meets the needs of the community while also enhancing the inherent beauty of the site. Of this 30%, public space with facilities accounts for 24 acres.

Our development strategy involves creating a conducive environment for healthy living while recreational facilities provide easy and accessible health and wellness options for our residents.

Also, we have been able to redefine the perception of affordable housing with award-winning apartments in Setia Alam, Shah Alam, and Setia EcoHill, Semenyih, by focusing on planning, design and prefabricated construction. By utilising industrialised building system (IBS) more extensively, we were able to reduce our construction and labour costs, while ensuring the buildings’ efficiency and quality. We also ensured the affordability of the purchase price or rental as well as energy efficiency and accessibility to surrounding amenities.

We established the S P Setia Foundation in 2000 with the aim of lending a helping hand to the underprivileged — in particular, assisting in the educational advancement of disadvantaged pupils in Malaysia. The foundation has also launched its Setia Caring School Programme, which aims to nurture students to be more empathetic and morally grounded, and sets the foundation for developing a caring society.

In the early years, it was apparent that the cost of building with sustainable materials was much higher than the traditional methods. Moreover, limited technology was available to support such intentions, in addition to minimal enforcement and awareness, which ultimately led to fewer requirements and demand from the purchasers. Nevertheless, we were one of the pioneers in introducing the IBS technology in Malaysia (circa the 1980s) and we are heartened to see that growth and demand for sustainable developments have risen over the years.

Sustainability is an important agenda for IJM Land. As a property developer, environmental sustainability has been a top priority in our operations, and our environmental management system is ISO 14001:2015 certified. With projects in Penang, Pahang, Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak as well as central London in the UK, we want to do our part in embracing sustainable practices and creating great value and experiences for our stakeholders in a responsible manner.

We have integrated concept features and passive design strategies into our developments, including building orientation, optimal window sizing and daylighting, and designed buildings to take advantage of natural ventilation opportunities to improve energy efficiency. 

We also encourage and support the use of building materials made from recycled materials and/or sustainable sources, renewable energy and rainwater harvesting systems in our properties where possible.

Over the years, IJM Land has also increased the adoption of solar technologies, such as the installation of solar panel water heating systems in the residential developments of Bandar Rimbayu. Solar panels are also installed on the roof of the Bandar Rimbayu sales gallery. The Light Waterfront Penang also embraces the use of solar technology, wind turbines, rainwater harvesting system as well as selective use of materials made from recycled materials.

We believe trust and governance have been an integral part of our success. IJM Corp Bhd received the Industry Excellence Award in the Construction Category at the Minority Shareholders Watch Group (MSWG)-Asean Corporate Governance Awards 2019 as well as the 2019 Asean Corporate Governance Scorecard Award under the Asean Asset Class category as a recognition of our efforts in elevating our corporate disclosure and practices.

IJM Land is committed to increasing the number of trees across its townships (Photo by IJM Land)

The pandemic has prompted homebuyers to place more emphasis on wellness, sustainability and design adaptability that can contribute to their health, well-being and productivity. This has served, and will always serve, as the foundation of our home design considerations when developing quality products that promote a sustainable and healthy way of life for our homeowners and community.

Greenery and landscaping are important considerations among homebuyers, so we are doing more than what is required by the municipal authorities. We are genuinely looking into introducing more usable green spaces and parks in our residential developments for residents’ recreation.

Many more trees will be planted across our townships and along the roads, providing residents with a more liveable and sustainable environment. We have also embarked on tree-planting efforts with community support. Looking ahead, we will actively embrace innovation to develop more sustainable buildings and developments and improve resource efficiency without compromising on the environment for future generations.

We recognise the occupational safety and health risks associated with our business. Thus, we place great importance on employees’ safety at work. The focus on safety and health has been further elevated since the start of the pandemic.

Our commitment to supporting and caring for our communities is ingrained in our culture and will always be a priority via a variety of activities. It is all part of being a responsible business. 

Despite the challenging business environment, we continue to extend our philanthropic support and care to the immediate needs of the Malaysian community affected by the pandemic. For example, our annual Home Rehabilitation Programme enhances the quality of lives and living conditions of an underprivileged family. Repairs are made both internally and externally to restore their home, providing a comfortable and safe environment for the family. This programme started in 2010.

One of the biggest challenges in adopting sustainability efforts is the mindset and attitude of the public towards nature and being environmentally friendly. Some perceive the products made from recycled materials as being inferior in quality and less appealing. More needs to be done to raise awareness among Malaysians in order to change mindsets and increase acceptance.

We contribute towards many charitable causes every year. In 2020, we reactivated our corporate social responsibility brand, the Tropicana Foundation, and we are consolidating all our internal and external CSR initiatives under one foundation so that we may extend our helping hand further. 

In FY2020, we contributed RM5.3 million to 37 underprivileged homes and associations across Malaysia. From a bird’s-eye view, our key concerns now are social impact (supporting the underprivileged in society and caring for our environment) and wellness (caring for our employees through the dissemination of our Tropicana care pack and supporting the Selangor Covid-19 Vaccination Programme [SelVax] at the Tropicana Gardens Mall).

During the pandemic, as a developer committed to social and stakeholder responsibility, we have made every effort to adhere to the Ministry of Health’s standard operating procedures, working together with the government to curb the spread of the virus while delivering our projects on schedule. Our foundation’s initiatives have also continued throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO), providing relief and food to orphanages, flood victims and even contributing to the national sports programmes. We are mindful that our business activities as a property developer have the potential to impact the environment and we ensure that we do so positively. 

Some of our activities were donating RM50,000 to the Malaysian AIDS Foundation for its Red Ribbon Gala, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, as well as donating 200,000 face masks to the Selangor state disaster relief room for distribution to frontliners.

We have also partnered with iCycle Management to establish community-based recycling programmes at Tropicana Aman, Tropicana Gardens, Tropicana Avenue, Tropicana Heights and Tropicana Metropark. The items collected included fabric-based materials (clothes, shoes, bags and soft toys), paper, plastic, computer parts, metal as well as electrical and electronic products. Since the programme’s launch in December 2019, more than 1,300kg of waste have been collected for recycling.

Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari (centre) at Tropicana Gardens Mall, one of the vaccination centres under SelVax (Photo by Tropicana Corp)

Our projects are built with the aim of protecting the integrity of the natural surroundings, as observed in several of our flagship projects, where large parks and green, landscaped areas are designed for people to enjoy the outdoors as nature intended. From a construction aspect, we remain cognisant of the regulatory requirements to protect natural resources and continue to put our best foot forward in identifying and managing any risks to or impact on the environment.

During the pandemic, Tropicana Foundation has provided more than 1,300 care packs containing masks, hand sanitisers and personal cutlery sets to our employees nationwide. When workers living at the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort hostels were quarantined indoors during the Enhanced MCO, Tropicana Foundation provided over 180 care packages to them, comprising food and essential supplies such as drinks, instant food, gloves, hand sanitisers and masks to ensure their safety and comfort.

We remain vigilant of the changes in the current market conditions as a result of the pandemic and continue to work closely with our suppliers to avoid any delays in product deliveries. In FY2020, Tropicana spent RM300,000 on supplies geared towards combating the spread of Covid-19. The safety of our staff and group of stakeholders remains our top priority as we strive towards creating a safer environment for everyone involved in our business activities. 

We have pledged our support for the government’s efforts to make the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme a success. Since July 1, Tropicana Gardens Mall Convention Centre at Kota Damansara has been one of the five large PPVs (vaccination centres) to host SelVax, where we have committed more than RM1 million for utilities, operations, logistics and manpower costs. We have also deployed all our team members throughout Malaysia to promote this national vaccination exercise through offline and online platforms.

In FY2021, we started arranging for all our employees to be vaccinated (in support of SelVax) to create a safe environment for our staff to continue their work. Through effective governing and adherence to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines, we have remained agile in adapting to the volatile market.

Sustainable development is undoubtedly a continuous journey, throughout which we must be able to mitigate market risks by ensuring that our developments continue to be relevant across the decades, even as regulations, demographics, technologies and lifestyles keep changing and evolving. 

Our vision, “Leader in Building Sustainable Communities”, has guided our sustainability journey since a decade ago and we have proactively employed a strategic approach in advancing our sustainability agenda.

Aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, we are committed to delivering our ESG commitments via our 2030 Sustainability Goals that consists of 18 goals. They focus our efforts on creating positive impact across four sustainability strategic spheres — shape thriving and inclusive communities; good biodiversity practices; lead in sustainable technology solutions; and embed transparent governance. 

These goals also allow us to contribute towards the betterment of society, play an active role in reducing our carbon footprint and create long-term economic value responsibly. Several of our key initiatives include:

•     Goal 8 (cycling and jogging tracks): A total of 68.8km of cycling and jogging circuits have been completed in various townships. We target to complete 300km by 2030;

•      Goal 15 (biodiversity — IUCN trees): Over 100,000 trees have been planted within our townships since September 2011, including more than 20,000 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List trees. We target 50,000 IUCN trees to be planted by 2030; and

•      Goal 16 (carbon sequestration): We plan to sequester about 30,000 tonnes of atmospheric carbon. That is equivalent to the planting of more than 160,000 trees by 2030.

The Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre and Elmina Living Collection Nursery in COE (Photo by Sime Darby Property)

Our townships are designed to include a variety of sustainable features, beyond the mandated requirement of 10% of greenery. An example is Elmina West within the 6,500-acre City of Elmina township (COE) — it has over 20% green and blue space, which includes parks and buffers, inclusive of the recreational wetland retention area.

We have signed a memorandum of understanding with TNBx, a subsidiary of Tenaga Nasional Bhd, to provide solar photovoltaic panels to 513 residential units at Ilham Residence in COE. We want to make solar PV panels either a standard feature or one that is offered at our other townships, in line with our strategy to “lead in sustainable technology solutions”.

The Elmina Central Park at COE epitomises our efforts in supporting “good biodiversity practices”, where we preserve biodiversity and respond positively to tackle the climate crisis. It provides a guideline on how we can design Sime Darby Property’s future wetlands and forest areas into parklands that act as flood mitigation infrastructure.

The central park, which is shaped like a basin, can transform into a natural floodplain in the unlikely occurrence of a flood event. Our Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre and Elmina Living Collection Nursery in COE are joint efforts with the Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre.

Through these efforts, we aim to collect the seeds of endangered, rare and threatened tree species from the adjacent rainforest reserve and plant them within our townships to provide park space for further genetic conservation of local IUCN Red List flora.

On the social aspect (to “shape thriving and inclusive communities”), we have completed the inaugural Economic Empowerment Programme to empower the B40 communities within our townships. Close to 80% of the 49 participants from Ara Damansara, Bandar Bukit Raja, Bukit Subang and Putra Heights managed to increase their monthly income during the six-month programme, as they were equipped with social media marketing knowledge that enhances their e-commerce business acumen. We are keen to extend this programme to other townships.

Finding the right balance to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations is one of the challenges we face. On top of that, we must navigate this journey with limited data reliability, not knowing if our efforts are worth the results and vice versa. Research in market perception on sustainability initiatives may be repeated soon.

This brings us to competency issues, with new information, news, ideas and ideologies on sustainability often cropping up. We have to keep up with the changes if we are to achieve our vision.

Our sustainability strategy focuses on creating value for stakeholders in the economic, environmental and social pillars, underpinned by our vision to be “trusted” in all that we do. We are steadfast in our mission to be trusted to safeguard our environment and to build sustainable communities.

We are guided by the group’s sustainability strategic framework that aligns our sustainability initiatives to our material sustainability matters, with the aim of achieving four sustainability goals, namely:

•      Delivering excellence;

•      Caring for the environment;

•      Creating value for our employees; and

•      Developing sustainable communities

Our top two sustainability targets focus on the climate change agenda of reducing carbon emissions as well as upholding high standards of occupational safety and health. In our commitment to mitigate climate change, we are on track to reduce carbon emissions from our business operations. The group’s Scope 2 carbon emissions intensity reduction target from FY2021 to FY2025 has been set at 15%, with FY2020 being the base year. 

In line with our policy that places utmost importance on safety and health at the workplace and business operations, we are committed to a zero fatality target for employees and contractors. To achieve this, the group has implemented robust safety and health practices, and management systems that strictly adhere to statutory and regulatory requirements, across all of our property development sites and managed properties. In view of the pandemic, safety and health at the workplace continues to be our top priority.

For the environmental aspect, our ongoing IOI Connects to Earth campaign aims to create awareness and generate conversations on waste minimisation, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. The campaign is in support of Goals 12, 13 and 15 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The group has also embarked on a renewable energy initiative with the installation of solar panels at IOI City Mall, which is estimated to generate 4,293 MWh/year of energy to reduce emissions by 2,979 tonnes of CO2. We have collaborated with external parties to deliver programmes that positively impact the community, such as:

•    Collaboration with the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation in a food waste management pilot project, which diverted an estimated 37,915kg of food waste generated by hotels and golf clubs from the landfill;

•      Upcycling fruit peels collected from vendors of Puteri Mart into almost 2,000 litres of cleaning enzymes, which were distributed free to the public;

•      Partnership with the Faculty of Pharmacy of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in a social entrepreneurship project to train women in the B40 community to make soap from used cooking oil; and

•      Active participation in the City Nature Challenge since 2019 to support biodiversity appreciation and conservation. 

For the social aspect, we started the “Think We Not Me” campaign at the onset of the pandemic to raise awareness and encourage communities to do their part in combating Covid-19 as well as to reach out to the underserved communities via the group’s charity arm, Yayasan Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng. 

To date, contributions of RM51 million have been made to underprivileged families and individuals, frontliners and hospitals. The group also provided rental relief of about RM74 million as at June 30 in support of its mall and office tenants during these challenging times. 

IOI provided some Hari Raya cheer to children from Rumah Kebajikan dan Bimbingan At-Taqwa in Puchong, Selangor (Photo by IOI Properties group)

The group has also set up a vaccination centre at IOI City Tower 1 to support the government’s efforts in achieving herd immunity under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme. Webinars were also organised to educate people on self-hygiene, healthy lifestyles and coping with stress due to a prolonged Movement Control Order. 

Team IOI also came together in the IOI Water for Life project to provide Orang Asli communities with access to clean drinking water, which we hope will have a positive impact on their daily lives because where there is no water, there is no life.

We acknowledge that embracing sustainability is a journey, with challenges along the way. In this journey, we will mobilise every level of the organisation to deliver on our sustainability goals. It takes time and unwavering effort to sustain momentum and to ensure all stakeholders consistently work towards these common goals.