CONVERSATIONS revolving around environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations have largely been dominated by the environmental and governance aspects – be it climate change and the resulting climate disasters or corruption concerns.
What has not been given due attention, however, is the importance of social in the ESG equation.
Within ESG, the social criterion examines the impact of an organisation’s operations on the labour and human rights of its employees and other community members. An evolution of traditional human resource practices, it now encompasses everything from diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts to employee volunteer hours, workplace conditions, as well as pay parity and equity.
A study by Marsh McLennan on ‘ESG as a Workforce Strategy’, for instance, revealed that ESG performance will function increasingly as a competitive advantage to companies, serving to engage today’s employees and attract tomorrow’s talent.
This means that against growing global awareness on the necessity of sustainability among governments, businesses and consumers alike, companies can no longer afford to see ESG as a ‘nice to have’.
Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) group chief executive officer Thomas Mathew explained, “An organisation’s impact on workers and employees is essential in reducing risk and ensuring the business runs responsibly.
“The impact of implementing policies on the social aspect of ESG can increase long-term profits and attract ESG conscious investors.
“It also reflects the company’s moral values that attract talent, investors, partnerships and the public in the long run.”
The social imperativeDespite its importance, Thomas pointed out that the social element is often overlooked in ESG investing as it is more vague and subjective in nature, making it harder to quantify.
But that’s exactly what TalentCorp, the national agency under the Ministry of Human Resources with the mandate to drive Malaysia’s talent strategy towards achieving high-income status, seeks to change.
“At its core, the social element is about building trust. All business transactions are built around trust. By promoting social good and forging healthy relationships, that level of trust between all stakeholders will grow and investor confidence will grow with it,” he shared.
As such, to support the growth and well-being of all Malaysians, TalentCorp partners with the public and private sectors on initiatives that attract, nurture and retain the right expertise needed to meet current and future talent demands.
He added, “That is why we advocate for forward-thinking policies and build strategic collaborations to give rise to a holistic and progressive Malaysian work, workplace and workforce.
To do so, TalentCorp has over 30 key initiatives for all layers of Malaysian society – including students, graduates, working professionals, women making career comebacks, the Malaysian diaspora, high-skilled expatriates, employers and stakeholders in the industry and academia – that exemplify its DE&I imperative.
These initiatives, which support and promote social best practices for employers to implement at their workplaces, underline TalentCorp’s mandate to ensure that Malaysia’s talent ecosystem is market-driven and dynamic.
“We promote inclusive policies that prevent discrimination and build a positive environment at work.
“At the end of the day, a company or portfolio is only as good as its reputation. Tackling social concerns and championing social equity, equality and forward-thinking business strategies are core parts of ESG,” he advised.
Spotlight on DE&IAmong TalentCorp’s initiatives include the Career Comeback Programme, which seeks to encourage professional women on a career break to make a comeback to encourage diversity in companies and reduce gender disparity of talents.
To further support such efforts, there is a tax exemption under the programme for eligible women making a career comeback after a two-year hiatus. Moreover, the agency also provides skill-building workshops to help prepare professional women to return to the workforce with confidence.
He further said, “Educating employees or providing enrichment budgets are also ways that companies can improve their social scores.”
While encouraging the participation of more women in the talent pool, Thomas pointed out that women play dual roles in that they also nurture the future generation, which is essential to ensuring sustainability.
With that, TalentCorp introduced the Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA)@Workplace in 2022 to actively advocate and provide employers with support in implementing structured FWA that will benefit both men and women in the workforce.
A free three-step programme for employers – including the FWA readiness assessment, FWA bootcamps and workshops, as well as a tailored 10-day FWA consultation for implementation – FWA@Workplace has helped employees improve their work/life balance and built trust between employers and employees.
Realising that women leave the workforce largely due to unpaid childcare and domestic work, the agency has always sought to break down systematic barriers associated with the work environment.
The Childcare@Workplace Grant, for one, aims to support industry-driven childcare centres to encourage greater availability of affordable and quality childcare facilities for working parents in the private sector.
In November 2022, Micron Malaysia, in collaboration with the Penang state government and TalentCorp, launched Malaysia’s first industry-driven childcare centre in the Batu Kawan Industrial Park.
In recognition that awareness on social issues need to start at an earlier age, TalentCorp has undertaken programmes in various secondary schools throughout the year to share information and knowledge on gender issues – including the potential difficulties for women seeking to return to work when they are older – with young Malaysians.
Youths were also provided with tools to help them understand that their chosen fields of study do not ‘trap’ them in a single profession.
TalentCorp has also established the Life at Work Awards (LAWA) to recognise good employer practices that promote work/life balance to inspire other employers.
Winners of the award can carry the LAWA logo of endorsement in recognition of exemplary DE&I practices.