Role of CEOs vital in driving CR initiatives

  • Business
  • Saturday, 26 Jul 2008

StarBiz-ICRM forum: Getting Corporate Responsibility on the CEO AgendaPart 1Part 2Part 3

PETALING JAYA: The role of chief executive officers (CEOs) is vital in driving corporate responsibility (CR) initiatives in corporations for a holistic approach and to ensure the effectiveness of the programmes.

Panellists of the StarBiz-Institute of Corporate Responsibility (ICR) Malaysia forum, Getting Corporate Responsibility on the CEO Agenda, yesterday stressed the importance of a CEO's role in embedding CR into a company's strategies and daily operations.

The panellistsat the forum were (onstage, from left)Institute of CorporateResponsibility (ICR)Malaysia chairman andPricewaterhouseCoopers Malaysia executivechairman Datuk JohanRaslan, ASTRO TV chiefexecutive officerRohana Rozhan, IJMCorp Bhd managingdirector DatukKrishnan Tan, HSBCBank Malaysia Bhddeputy chairman andchief executive officerIrene Dorner andKhazanah NasionalBhd managing directorTan Sri AzmanMokhtar.

The forum was moderated by ICR Malaysia chairman Datuk Johan Raslan and consisted of Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, IJM Corp Bhd managing director Datuk Krishnan Tan, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd deputy chairman and chief executive officer Irene Dorner, and Astro TV chief executive officer Rohana Rozhan.

“The CEO has to play a role by emphasising that CR needs to be looked at holistically. It has to be embedded into the DNA of the company and not just viewed as individual projects. The agenda/tone has to be set by the CEO but ownership is by the whole organisation,” Rohana said.

Dorner said a CEO would need to “walk the talk” when it came to CR.

“Unless the CEO is seen practising CR, there is not much chance of the whole organisation doing it. We can't just tell people to practise CR.

“It is a journey – we can't flip a coin and become the most responsible company in the world,” she said.

According to Dorner, all HSBC's global CEOs have a CR platform in their own countries, so much so that it has become a fundamental part of the HSBC brand.

Tan believes that CEO engagement in CR is happening in Malaysia.

“Stakeholders want us to calculate the return on stakeholder equity and identify what we are doing for society in various aspects. There is a realisation that the CEOs have to play a bigger role now.

“CR needs to be looked at in a more holistic manner rather than just leaving it to the corporate communications department or company secretary,” he said, adding that the basic framework of the group's CR initiatives overseas would be modified to cater to the environment.

Azman noted that as the heart of CR now encompassed ethics and governance, CEOs would need to be at the forefront.

“There are so many problems on the planet, the stakeholder economy will remain with us for a long time and rightly so.

“We can't rely on governments, corporations and non-governmental organisations alone so collaboration is important in the CR space,” he said.

On a participant's question on the awareness and best practices of CR in the country compared with others, Rohana said there was room for improvement.

“I don't believe Malaysia is there yet but everyone is aware of CR now and pulling together to reflect on what it means for their individual corporations within this space. I think that in itself is a good realisation already,” she said.

Tan's advice to CR advocates in getting CEOs involved is to convince the latter that the CR initiative is part of the business process.

“Tell your CEO that this is part and parcel of the business process the company already has and all that is needed is to enhance it and fit it in a framework,” he said.

For Rohana, the easiest way to convince a CEO would be to stress the importance of the CR initiative in improving key performance indicators (KPIs).

“Our CR initiatives are actually in furtherance of our KPIs. You need to convince your CEO that it is part and parcel of the delivery system and how it can deliver results,” she said.

The half-day forum organised in conjunction with the inaugural StarBiz-ICR Malaysia Corporate Responsibility Awards was attended by 89 guests.


THERE are limits to how much companies cando in terms of CR. There needs to be collaborationbetween the company and its supplychain (when implementing CR initiatives).

We have a Silver Book (a guide for government-linked companies on how to clarify andmanage social obligations) and a Red Bookthat observes supply chain and suppliers'management.

We still have not done enough and have yetto reach the levels of the multinationals. Wewant to be up there with the best.


THERE are a lot more women driving companies and holding high positions in Malaysia than in many other countries.

I think there are definitely people here who are more open and this glass ceiling thing is probably there but not as bad as in other countries.

We do have many female engineers.

If you look at the finance profession today, women are beginning to dominate. So it will happen naturally.

In the immediate term, I do not see a woman CEO running the construction operations in IJM yet, but who knows?

IRENE DORNER Deputy chairman and chief executive officer HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd

When we talk about sustainable lending in the Malaysian context, we are not saying that we won't lend if you don't meet our high standards. We need to balance the present needs to make money as well as have a thriving society.

For example, we look (positively) at the RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) because we want to have a sustainable business for the future generation in the plantations sector where we are contributing financing. In forestry we have guidelines to ensure that the timber is certified as far as we can. HSBC sees it as our responsibility that in 50 years, there is still a business going on in forestry. That pulls in our customers, lawyers, suppliers and accountants. It is also in my performance appraisal on an annual basis.


Corporate responsibility (CR) should be embedded into our business culture, it is not a choice. It is something you have to do because it is something that your stakeholders demand of you.

We have a scholarship programme for families of our customers and have allocated RM10mil for the scholarships.

Later this year, we will launch 24/7 sports channels dedicated to Malaysian sports to highlight local sports.

We are also looking to bring Astro to schools and push content that would be beneficial to children and schoolteachers to enhance the learning experience.

Related Stories:High-profile CEOs at StarBiz-ICR forum CR must meet stakeholders’ objectives and interest Study: CR will help differentiate companies

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