THE global sustainability agenda is not a passing fad, but a global movement with serious potential impact to countries, industries and companies, said Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Mustafa Abdul Aziz.
He added, “As such, it is clear that our exporters need to understand and appreciate this global expectation and operate accordingly. Indeed, our Malaysian exporters should start looking at global standards to benchmark and regulate their operations.
“When it comes to the welfare and wellbeing of workers, Malaysian companies must take cognisance of existing laws and carry out concrete steps to comply and address gaps in their current practices.”
Although there will be challenges in interpreting current laws and implementing best practices as different industries have different requirements, he called for Malaysian companies to embark on continuous learning to ensure compliance to not only local, but also international ESG requirements.
Matrade was among the early advocates of sustainability among the public sector when it launched the Sustainability Action Values for Exporters initiative in 2019, which encourages exporters to embrace sustainability policies and practices in their business and operations.
The move, which was part of the national trade promotion agency’s efforts to future-proof Malaysian exporters, was aimed at ensuring the companies remain relevant, attractive and competitive in the global arena.
“We have in fact included sustainability as one of our three main agendas for Matrade, the other two being digitalisation and the National Trade Blueprint. In this context, we are encouraging Malaysian exporters to get serious about the sustainability agenda and operate as global companies with a global mindset,” he said.
After three years of regular engagement with trade associations and chambers of commerce on issues relating to environmental, social and governance (ESG), as well as rolling out various awareness sessions, Matrade is now looking to implement programmes that can support more exporters to become ESG-compliant.
Among its latest initiatives is participating in the collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact – together with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, Bursa Malaysia and Nottingham University – to assess the level of ESG in the country via the PULSE survey.
The survey, which was conducted earlier this year and will soon be published, revealed that companies had a need for more information on how to adopt ESG and manage compliance-related costs.
Matrade will also continue to work with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and other relevant agencies to create greater urgency among Malaysian companies on the need for them to pursue the triple bottom-line agenda of taking care of the interest of people and planet, as well as profit.
“As a start, Malaysian companies should begin thinking about sustainability and setting a goal to incorporate elements of sustainability in their business.
“Rather than thinking of it as another cost or expense, companies should change their mindset and instead take this as an opportunity to open new markets as more countries are enforcing sustainable and responsible sourcing.
“Sustainability is not a destination, but a journey. As a starting point for best practices, Malaysian companies should always keep updated on the latest regulations on global ESG trends,” he said, noting that one way for companies to do so is becoming a Matrade member to benefit from the latest market intelligence from its 46 overseas trade offices.