Celebrating sustainable business practices


By JADE CHANJAROD LIM

SUSTAINABILITY and environmental, social and governance (ESG) were the buzzwords at Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) 2023 Gala Night, with sponsors and partners urging award participants to embrace these practices in their businesses.

“Sustainability is going to be an important topic and trend for Malaysian industries moving forward.

(From left) SMG chief content officer Datin Paduka Esther Ng, Yip, Tio, Chan, Benedick, SMG chief business officer Lydia Wang, Mohd Zamree and Soon standing for the national anthem at the VIP table. — FAIHAN GHANI, AZHAR MAHFOF, GLENN GUAN, CHAN TAK KONG/The Star(From left) SMG chief content officer Datin Paduka Esther Ng, Yip, Tio, Chan, Benedick, SMG chief business officer Lydia Wang, Mohd Zamree and Soon standing for the national anthem at the VIP table. — FAIHAN GHANI, AZHAR MAHFOF, GLENN GUAN, CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

“It is also important for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to embrace sustainability to continue to foolproof their businesses,” said CelcomDigi Bhd Enterprise Sales (SME) department head Steven Soon.

“I believe SMEs will continue to embrace digitalisation. I hope to see artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and future trends in technology incorporated in SOBA 2024.”

RHB Bank Bhd SME Banking head Yip How Nang hoped that future editions of SOBA would place more emphasis on businesses with sustainable practices as well as those committed to delivering social responsibility and ethical governance.

SOBA is an annual event that recognises non-listed Malaysian businesses for their contributions to the economy.

Businesses are evaluated based on their operational procedures, adaptability, profitability and environmental impact.

The awards were presented in two categories: businesses with a sales turnover of up to RM25mil and businesses with a sales turnover of RM25mil and above.

Tan (left) receiving the SOBA 2023 Malaysian Business of the Year award from Chan.Tan (left) receiving the SOBA 2023 Malaysian Business of the Year award from Chan.

The 14th edition of the event honoured 122 awardees in categories such as Entrepreneur of the Year, Malaysian Business of the Year, Best Brand, Best Innovation and Best in Marketing, as well as the newly introduced SOBA Mikro Recognition Award that recognises local micro businesses that display great potential for business growth in the market.

Guest of honour Entrepreneur and Cooperatives Development Minister Datuk Ewon Benedick said in line with SOBA’s objectives, the ministry had initiated a programme to assist and support SME Corp-registered micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) aiming to list on Bursa Malaysia in 2024.

“The support will alleviate the challenges faced by MSMEs, particularly regarding the listing expenses, and provide Malaysian MSMEs with fundamentals to be more competitive.

“My ministry is also dedicated to supporting Malaysian entrepreneurs in expanding their product markets globally.

“By providing assistance to our entrepreneurs, in the long term, it will provide businesses with sustainable results and boost the national economy,” he said.

Present at the gala night held at One World Hotel, Petaling Jaya were Star Media Group (SMG) chief executive officer Chan Seng Fatt, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group chief executive and managing director Datuk Seri Dr Michael Tio, Credit Guarantee Corporation Malaysia Bhd (CGC) president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Zamree Mohd Ishak and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Strategic Planning Division senior director Raja Badrulnizam Raja Kamalzaman.

Loh (middle) receiving the Rising Star Award from Benedick (right) as Chan looks on.Loh (middle) receiving the Rising Star Award from Benedick (right) as Chan looks on.

Raja Badrulnizam said SOBA 2023 saw greater emphasis on sustainability, employees’ welfare and product quality improvement, and hoped that this trend would continue in years to come.

“As the economy grows, companies have to be prepared for new challenges. But at the same time, they have to raise the bar to improve quality and standards and keep up with consumer trends.

“I also want to see more companies going into ecommerce, as that will allow them to go to new markets,” he said, adding that SMEs could work with Matrade to expand their businesses abroad.

Mohd Zamree said SMEs must be educated on the importance of ESG.

“Compliance with ESG also means increased cost of doing business. What we need to do is help them by providing incentives, such as to embrace green initiatives.

“Bank Negara Malaysia has a scheme called Low Carbon Transition Facility to provide financial support at very competitive rates for SMEs that want to transition to green practices.

“SMEs can borrow up to RM10mil and our company guarantees them,” he said.

A string quartet entertaining guests with a selection of contemporary songs using traditional Chinese instruments at the ballroom’s foyer.A string quartet entertaining guests with a selection of contemporary songs using traditional Chinese instruments at the ballroom’s foyer.

Tio urged award recipients to start embarking on ESG and ensure their companies have a road map planned out to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“SOBA winners will always move to another level, whether by becoming a larger SME or public listed company.

“If they don’t have an ESG road map, they won’t be able to scale their business to another level or work with multinational corporations,” he said.

Tio said that “if there is no ESG, there is no MSG”, referring to multinational sales growth.

Imagine AI Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive officer Edwin Loh said winning the Rising Star Award is proof that local technology and talents were as good as foreign ones.

The Johor-based company is a solutions provider for automation, AI vision and robotics.

Tio (seated, third from left) and the PKT Logistics Group team.Tio (seated, third from left) and the PKT Logistics Group team.

“We are proudly Malaysian. We provide tools for corporations to develop their own AI solutions.

“We would like to enable more SMEs and corporations to adopt AI over the next few years,” said Loh.

Malaysian Business of the Year award winner Woodpeckers Group Sdn Bhd director Tan Kai Young said the win was evidence of the team’s hard work.

“We will continue to grow our brands in the food and beverage industry and also bring in new brands to Malaysia.

“ESG is something that we will focus on this year. Customers of our brands can return used plastic cups and tubs for us to recycle and we will give them a discount in return,” said Tan.

SOBA 2023 is organised by Star Media Group with CelcomDigi Bhd, CGC, PKT Logistics Group and RHB Bank Bhd as main sponsors with Matrade as official trade promotion partner. Supported by Bursa Malaysia, SOBA is audited by BDO while radio stations 988 and Suria are official media partners.

For details, call SMG Events (017-231 1789) or visit www.soba.com.my. Look out for the Winners Supplement on April 4.


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