The traditional dichotomy between sustainability and survivability is no longer valid. In today’s economic landscape, they are one and the same.

Sustainability is no longer just the realm of governments, NGOs, or community advocates. In the current business climate, companies, investors, and consumers prioritize environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria, expecting businesses to adopt sustainable practices voluntarily.

Bridging Sustainability and Business Success

The insights shared by Joyline Chai of Global Hemisphere Group at the New Entrepreneur Championship Conference (NECC) 7.0, hosted at ReSkills Hub on 16 April 2024, serve as a vital blueprint for Malaysian SMEs and global businesses alike, illustrating that true business success now hinges on sustainable development practices that align with broader societal and environmental goals.

Chai pointed to a significant shift in market dynamics with the Bursa Malaysia Stock Exchange mandating listed companies to disclose their sustainable development impacts. This requirement reflects a broader global trend where ESG compliance is increasingly becoming a cornerstone of investment and trade decisions.

The historical context provided by Chai traced the origins of ESG back to 2004, with the UN Global Compact Initiative’s “Who Cares Wins” report. This seminal report, backed by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, encouraged major financial institutions to weave environmental, social, and governance factors into their investment frameworks, highlighting that integrating ESG not only benefits companies ethically but also makes sound business sense.

Malaysia’s Growing Role in Sustainability

With Malaysia’s role as a global trading power, generating RM1.55 trillion in exports in 2022, Chai underscored the country’s substantial influence and responsibility in adhering to both local and international sustainability requirements. The nation’s economic activities are deeply intertwined with global markets that are increasingly dictating ESG compliance as a fundamental criterion for business engagements.

Chai also stressed the importance of engaging with suppliers to build a collective vision for sustainable development. By fostering close collaborations, companies can ensure their suppliers align with sustainable strategies and performance goals, thereby enhancing overall sustainability across the supply chain.

The use of standardized sustainability frameworks was another focal point. Chai explained that these frameworks help organizations integrate ESG aspects into their operations seamlessly and provide transparent, consistent reporting of their sustainability performance. This transparency not only helps businesses internally but also enables stakeholders to evaluate the impact of their ESG efforts effectively.

This ESG talk was part of the New Entrepreneur Championship Conference (NECC) 7.0, a flagship project organized by Junior Chamber International (JCI) Lead Tropicana branch.