Transparency as currency of trust

Sunway City Kuala Lumpur reflects the group’s commitment to fostering thriving and sustainable communities.

ACCORDING to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report 2023, we are making little headway with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).The report revealed “significant challenges” during this midpoint evaluation of SDG progress as “insight derived from the latest global-level data and custodian agencies analysis paints a concerning picture.”

It found that only 15% of the goals are projected to be achieved by the targeted year of 2030, and highlighted that progress towards 48% of the goals is significantly behind schedule, categorised as “moderately or severely off track.” For an additional 37% of the goals, progress has either stalled or regressed, indicating a lack of forward momentum or even a backwards trajectory.

This is where environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors come into play. ESG principles can guide organisations to operate in a way that benefits the environment, society, and their own governance.

By marrying ESG practices with the SDGs, businesses can be deliberate in their actions by working towards the ambitious goals set forth by the UN.

Committed leadership

Ong: ‘Our experience here demonstrates that sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand without compromising on our belief of doing well by doing good.’Ong: ‘Our experience here demonstrates that sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand without compromising on our belief of doing well by doing good.’Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Sir Dr Jeffrey Cheah believes that if the world can “achieve at least 70% of the SDGs, the world’s Happiness Index ranking will be very high. The SDGs provide a comprehensive and holistic roadmap towards building a more sustainable world.”

“At Sunway, we see the ESG disclosure and compliance framework as one of the more effective tools and as a ‘means to an end’, which are the UN SDGs. More importantly, we view ESG as a data-based sustainability mechanism that facilitates disclosures and fosters transparency,” said Sunway Group chairman’s office executive director Ong Pang Yen.

“Through disclosures, stakeholders are able to see how companies are responding to pressing environmental, social and governance issues.

“We believe that transparency brings about accountability and builds trust. In other words, transparency promotes engagement with our stakeholders and helps keep the company on the right track to stay relevant in an ever-changing environment.

“Fifty years is not a short period of time,” Ong continued, as the group celebrates its golden jubilee this year.

“It is a clear indication of our leadership’s preparedness in the face of an ever-changing business environment and ability to outrival many of our competitors, to be among the top in the industries in which we operate. Our experience here demonstrates that sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand without compromising on our belief of doing well by doing good,” he said.

Driven from the inside, out

Building a culture of sustainability starts with forward-thinking leadership, as businesses have a direct effect on the communities they serve.

From within, Sunway encourages green office practices, and employee participation in sustainability initiatives through training programmes, awareness campaigns as well as recognition programmes.Sunway, with 13 businesses, knows it needs to move with the entire value chain towards their green goals.

Through their Green Lease Partnership Programme—initiated by the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) division—Sunway communicates and fosters sustainable practices among their business partners by serving as a platform for collaboration, knowledge-sharing and promoting sustainable initiatives throughout the real estate sector.

Meanwhile—in retail—Sunway Malls launched the Sustainability Collaboration Alliance Network (SCAN), a strategic partnership involving key organisations such as the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University, Malaysia Retailers Association and Malaysia Retail Chain Association.

Under SCAN, Sunway Malls introduced the Retail Extended Learning (ReX) programme to promote sustainable business practices and decision-making among retail practitioners. This initiative aims to enhance environmental and social responsibility within the retail sector for long-term sustainability.

The group also places a strong emphasis on sustainable procurement practices, conducting a comprehensive Sustainability Risk Assessment to ensure suppliers align with the group’s Sustainable Procurement Policy.

This assessment enables Sunway to make informed decisions and collaborate with suppliers committed to like-minded principles.

Without forgetting small-medium enterprises (SMEs), Sunway follows the Simplified ESG Disclosure Guide (SEDG) to aid SMEs in measuring and documenting their sustainability progress.

Integrating strategies

As sustainable finance integrates ESG principles into both business decisions and investment strategies to address issues related to climate change and labour practices, this approach also empowers companies to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

According to the World Bank, green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked debt issuance now totals US$4.7 trillion as of September 2023, where the Asean+3 market has an 18.9% market share.

Sunway had taken steps to advance its sustainability financing in 2022. Notably, the group worked with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking to get a Sustainability-Linked Loan (SLL) and Sunway also partnered with CIMB Bank to set up a sustainability-linked treasury programme.

Another programme launched in 2022 was the sukuk wakalah programme by Sunway Healthcare Treasury and Sunway South Quay.This framework outlines the company’s commitment to using the proceeds of the sukuk issuance to finance sustainable projects that align with their ESG goals, with the proceeds from the sukuk issuance being channelled towards financing projects that contribute to Sunway’s sustainability goals - these include projects such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and green buildings.

Then in 2023, Sunway Treasury expanded the SLL with Standard Chartered. Meanwhile, Sunway Property partnered with Alliance Bank, adding to existing collaborations with Public Bank and Standard Chartered Bank that were established in 2022.

Additionally, Sunway Group had inked a memorandum of understanding with UOB Malaysia to collaborate in reaching a shared mission of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Earlier in February of this year too, Sunway Velocity Three Sdn Bhd established an Islamic medium-term note programme of up to RM1bil in nominal value based on the Shariah principle of Wakalah Bi Al-Istithmar, namely, the Asean Green Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) Sukuk Programme.

As of March this year, the aforementioned Sunway South Quay has issued a total of RM250mil in sustainability sukuk.

With Sunway celebrating 50 years this year, its comprehensive approach to the SDGs and ESG serves as a yardstick for other organisations to follow suit and embrace sustainability as a core value.

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