Pandemic an opportunity for businesses to look at sustainability

Dato’ Abdul Rahman Ahmad — Group Chief Executive Officer, CIMB Group (left); and John Elkington— Author of The Triple Bottom-Line, Founder and Director, Volans, spoke virtually at CIMB's The Cooler Earth Sustainability Summit 2020 on Tues Sept 8, 2020. (Photo credit: CIMB Group Holdings Bhd)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 8): The Covid-19 pandemic has presented opportunities for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs to look at sustainability.

CSO-SDG Alliance’s Kiu Jia Yaw said at a panel discussion during The Cooler Earth Summit organised by CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, that there never has been a better time for entrepreneurs and businesses to clarify their roles in society and look at how their business activities impact the societies and environments they operate in. 

“It is a great time, the ground has shifted and the mindsets of your stakeholders have also shifted,” Kiu said.  

CSO-SDG Alliance is a coalition of civil society organisations in Malaysia.

Singapore-listed City Developments Ltd (CDL) chief sustainability officer Esther An said one has to integrate sustainability into every aspect of the business first, in order to innovate, grow and attract investments in a sustainable way and monitor the impact of its business operations. 

“For example, we have been helping SMEs to renew and reset their business model,” An said.

The Global Business Initiative on Human Rights’ director Catie Shavin noted that companies should pay more attention to human rights risk management, as these companies can better manage human rights issues and be more socially sustainable.  

In terms of how the sustainability agenda can be sustained for businesses beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, Kiu opined that at the macro level, institutional reforms must be continued in order to ensure that the rules, regulations and legislation that come out of such institutions is beneficial to all segments of society and meet the needs of sustainability criteria.  

“The public and private sectors need to embrace all Sustainable Development Goals in all levels of decision making,” Kiu said. 

For Shavin, taking on human rights risk management can help rebuild trust and credibility among stakeholders.  

“It is important for companies to do their human rights due diligence and to do it effectively,” Shavin noted.  

At the virtual conference, the banking group announced that CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd launched a dedicated Motor Takaful Waqf initiative to start a seed fund which will be used to purchase bicycles for students from underserved communities to go to school. 

The initiative started yesterday (Sept 7), with CIMB Islamic contributing an upfront seed funding of RM100,000.  

“CIMB Islamic will allocate an additional RM50 to the fund for each successful online subscription of the motor takaful via CIMB’s website until Dec 31, 2020,” it said in a statement.  

The conference’s partners include the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), sustainability firm Impacto and urban regeneration organisation Think City. 

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