Speeches

Presentation Ceremony of Prime Minister’s CSR Awards 2009

By Tuesday March 9th, 2010 No Comments

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh Salam 1Malaysia,

YB Senator Dato’ Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil
Minister of Women, Family and Community Development and spouse

YB Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun
Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development

Yang Berbahagia Dato Norhayati Sulaiman,
Secretary General Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development

Excellencies

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I am delighted to be here with you this evening to present the 2009 Prime Minister’s CSR Awards. Launched in 2007 the Awards recognize companies that have made a difference in the communities in the fields of education, environment, culture and heritage, social welfare, workplace practices, and not forgetting the empowerment of women.

2. Many Malaysian captains of industry are present here today. It is incumbent upon you, as responsible leaders and caring members of society, to ensure that your decisions and actions do not adversely impact on society. In implementing CSR activities, it is important that you, as leaders in your respective corporations, do not view these activities purely from a quantitative aspect but consider the qualitative aspects as well. It is easy to write a cheque. But while funds are important, it is equally vital to ensure that the CSR activities funded, well planned and well executed make a real difference on a sustainable basis to your stakeholders and society.

3. However, some activities may not even require additional funds. They could just mean a re-allocation of existing assets for maximum benefit. Or they could only require investment of time from you and your staff—a commitment to give of your time to lend a helping hand, or give a sympathetic ear or to go down to the ground to work and participate in activities with the locals. This will go a long way in making a difference to the lives of the less fortunate and the elderly. Such contributions cannot be just one-off activities. They must be continuous and they must be sustainable.

4. Time is precious and it is difficult to put a monetary value to it. But even so to encourage greater participation,time spent on CSR can be part of the individual staff’s KPI and institutionalized by the Human Resource Departments in assessing their performance. It can and should be computed in determining annual increments or bonuses. This will, I am sure, motivate the staff further and encourage others to join in and actively participate in CSR and put to rest question often asked when it comes to out-of-work activities “Would it affect or would it benefit my career?”

5. Businesses and corporations do not operate in a vacuum. They are part of society and depend not only on their stakeholders but society at large for their existence and operations. It is important for business to give back to society. Helping society and extending a helping hand to those around you can be mutually beneficial and profitable. It is in your best interest to bring the poorest and least privileged into the mainstream of economic activity, to create a 1Malaysia that is inclusive and cares for all.

6. The Government and the corporate sector are partners in the journey to create a more united, harmonious and prosperous 1Malaysia. This may require a change in approach and thinking. A mindset change. This may be more difficult to achieve and takes time but will yield long term benefits.

7. Several NGOs, such as Mercy Malaysia, individuals and associations have been very active, working quietly and hard to make a difference to preserve the environment or help those in dire need. Individuals have been campaigning to preserve the environment from the very early days when environment preservation was not fashionable. Many of them are single-minded in their approach and passionate about making a difference.

Ladies and Gentlemen

8. There is in fact a fundamental change occurring globally in society and in businesses that is making responsible corporate behaviour an absolute must for every company. Corporations, GLCs and bona fide NGOs that are in the forefront of CSR activities should join hands for greater impact, long lasting and maximum results from their efforts. For example, staff from the GLCs could join NGOs in their relief work and this investment of time on their part can be counted for promotion, increment, and bonus. It does not have to be big projects requiring large funds. It can be small projects that have greater reach and impact. Start small projects and programmes that will grow and bring benefits to a larger segment of society.

9. IT is a major and important component of the change that is taking place throughout the world. Malaysians, be they in the rural or urban areas, must be connected and have access to IT and the internet. Mobile internet vans can offer weekly services to the remote areas where internet services are currently not available and help make a huge difference to the lives of poor students, those in the villagers and even the urban poor. Connecting them to the outside world will enhance their capabilities, add to their knowledge and go a long way in making IT accessible to the less fortunate. The mobile internet vans could double up as mobile libraries.

10. The government champions CSR and has demonstrated its commitment to push the agenda with the announcement in the 2010 budget for a holistic and sustainable development. Companies are required to integrate aspects of CSR as part of business sustainability and it is now mandatory for companies to disclose the CSR activities undertaken within the year in their annual reports. In doing so it is important to ensure that the activities produce beneficial outcomes.

11. Companies and associations set aside funds on an annual basis for CSR activities and in some cases find it difficult to identify projects and activities to fund. On the other hand there are numerous deserving projects and causes that cry out for help. To bridge the gap, a matching and clearing facility can be set up so that the deserving causes can be identified and have access to available funds.

12. As with the rest of the world, the population demographics in Malaysia are changing. An increasing number of people are now living in the towns and cities and this brings with it new challenges. The old ways of doing things are being replaced with new methods. And lifestyles are changing.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

13. The financial crisis too brought with it new challenges. It resulted in corporations having to set out new priorities. Being a good corporate citizen has probably become less of a priority for many organizations but CSR programmes are needed now more than ever since the crisis has had a severe impact on the economically vulnerable. The large bonuses that CEOs in Wall Street paid themselves while many of their employees were left jobless and in some cases homeless is untenable and unacceptable even in the most advanced nation. The poor, the homeless and vulnerable need help just as preservation of the environment cannot be ignored even in Malaysia.

14. While we have made a good start in our CSR journey, there is still a long way to go in addressing the needs and concerns of all sections of our society. As a nation, we face challenges as we embark on a growth path that will take us up the economic ladder to a higher income bracket. The transformation to a high-income economy is imperative if we intend to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive global environment.

15. How can we build a pool of the brightest and best minds, talents and skills? How can we mainstream the disadvantaged and disenfranchised through innovative business strategies? How do we protect our environment in a world of increasingly finite resources? How can we help our people live safer and healthier lives?

16. We will achieve this and much more through a concerted effort to raise our capacity for knowledge, innovation and creativity, and high value added activities. While the Government will do its part to create an environment for sustainable and inclusive growth, the private sector and you as leaders of the corporate world must do your part to energise and help power the nation for the next big thrust forward. You have the technology, the skills and the expertise to generate wealth and employment. You are in a position to influence and effect change in the economy and the lifestyle of future generations.

17. Corporate Social Responsibility is at the heart of the challenges we face as a nation. The things you do in the next few years to help the Government to raise educational standards, enhance healthcare, protect and improve the environment, alleviate poverty and hardship, are more important now than they have ever been.

18. Society is changing and with it the expectations of your stakeholders. Firstly, consumers – and here I mean consumers in the broadest sense – are developing higher expectations of the companies they engage with. They are much more aware of and concerned about the behaviour of corporations whose products or services they purchase. They share experiences and information from all parts of the world through the Internet and mobile technology, and through the social media like Facebook and Twitter. They are already beginning to express a preference for products and services from socially responsible companies. It is time for us to take the cue from them.

19. Secondly, there is growing consensus among opinion leaders globally, that the corporate sector can make a huge difference in solving social and environmental problems. This is putting increased pressure on corporations, particularly multinationals, to align their business strategies to national priorities in countries where they operate.

20. Thirdly, investors are playing an increasing role in encouraging corporate social responsibility. A growing number of investors and fund managers are using sustainability ratings such as the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the FTSE4Good to guide investment decisions.

21. Fourthly, the International Organisation for Standardisation is in the process of developing an International Standard providing guidelines for social responsibility. They are looking at how best these guidelines would promote respect and responsibility without stifling creativity and development. This will be published sometime this year as ISO 26000. While it will be a management system standard, it does underscore the increasing need to embed social responsibility into the business practice of every company, big or small.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

22. We have a long way to go in putting CSR strategies at the heart of our efforts to create a more sustainable and socially inclusive future. There are more than 600,000 businesses registered in Malaysia. Fewer than 200 participated in this Awards programme. It is clear that we need to move CSR up the business agenda and embed it into the DNA of every company. This presents an enormous challenge, as well as a huge opportunity to get things right from the start.

23. Corporate Malaysia has the resources, the vision and the entrepreneurial skills to help lift the nation to new heights of prosperity. You can provide the thought leadership and action to ensure that the sustainable benefits of prosperity filter through to every segment of society.

24. There is a need to foster strong and effective partnerships among the business sector, public organizations and community-based NGOs to bring about a real change in mindset that will enhance the nation’s sustainability.

25. There is much hard work still ahead of us. And we have the will and we have the determination. It is important to recognize the efforts already underway and to encourage those who have not yet set out on the CSR journey, to take a meaningful first step forward. It is important to spread the CSR message of responsible and sustainable business across a wider community, and to raise the bar on CSR participation, performance and outcome.

26. I congratulate the winners and those singled out for honourable mention.

Thank you.

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