Embodying Sustainability From Within
The concept behind most business models is simple – to supply new products or services, make enough revenue to cover operational costs, ensure the welfare of all employees and suppliers, and generate a profit that will keep the business going.
Sunway believes there is an important added dimension that has been part of the company’s DNA since its founding that allows it to achieve success beyond market capitalisation and sales figures, and stand out in the marketplace.
This, of course, would not have taken place if it was not for Sunway Group’s founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, who holds the values of sustainability and philanthropy close to his heart.
It is under his influential leadership that these ideals become ingrained in every employee, who understands that sustainability is not mere company directive but part of the prevailing values embraced as natural lifestyle choices.
It is of no surprise then that Sunway would lead the way in pushing for sustainability, becoming a role model within the region for advancing the agenda and having the recognition to show for it.
In October, risk management, strategic business consultancy and project advisory services provider RAM Consultancy Services Sdn Bhd awarded its highest “Gold” Sustainability Rating to Sunway Berhad, based on a wide set of evaluation metrics encompassing climate change, natural capital, human resource, human rights, product and service responsibility, community, corporate governance, sustainability governance, positive impact and supply chain assessment.
Among the various factors that helped Sunway receive the rating are its strong governance and risk management structure as well as its adherence to the main tenets of the Malaysian Code of Corporate Governance.
The award is also a nod to the way Sunway City has developed over the years, from a barren mining wasteland into a thriving township that has more than 200,000 residents, 30,000 trees, 150 species of flora and fauna, its own water treatment plant and more than 24% of the entire development reserved as green spaces.
I view education as a calling and I believe I have a higher purpose in life, which is to do good and give back to society. Education is a not a profit-driven business, but of course, we must ensure that this initiative is sustainable. – Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah
In addition, Sunway scored valuable points for its certified green buildings that mitigate climate change with energy-saving features such as LED lights, solar panels, lift enhancements and high-efficiency chillers.
As a result of these proactive steps, Sunway City has managed to reduce its carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions by 12% between 2015 and last year.
It is the country’s first integrated green township and has the honour of being the winner of the Low Carbon City Award by the Malaysian Institute of Planners last year.
RAM Consultancy also acknowledged the man who orchestrated the entire movement, bestowing Dr Cheah with the inaugural Sustainability Icon Award earlier this year for his endless commitment, vision and dedication to the cause that has stretched over the last four decades.
According to Dr Cheah, “Sustainability is a long-term journey and lies at the heart of everything we do here at Sunway. It is not just an afterthought but a mindset deeply ingrained in the group.”
Promoting international partnerships
Sunway’s commitment to sustainability is not just limited to physical undertakings within the confines of Sunway City
Last year, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF), which governs Sunway’s entire breadth of educational institutions, aligned itself with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and donated US$10mil (RM41.08mil) to establish the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development (JSC) at Sunway University.
This was the biggest contribution of its kind towards advancing the 17 SDGs adopted by the United Nations that aim to eradicate all forms of poverty, fight inequality and, among others, tackle climate change.
Under the supervision of leading international authority in sustainable development Prof Jeffrey Sachs – who is director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network – the JSC is to be a hub of research and policy practice, creating world-class programmes to train students, practitioners and policy leaders on sustainable initiatives while working in collaboration with industries, agencies and government bodies.
Under the supervision of leading international authority in sustainable development Prof Jeffrey Sachs – who is director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network – the JSC is to be a hub of research and policy practice, creating worldclass programmes to train students, practitioners and policy leaders on sustainable initiatives while working in collaboration with industries, agencies and government bodies.
The summit brought together industry leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers, regulators and leading researchers from around the world to discuss the numerous opportunities and challenges that exist in the continent in the quest for a truly sustainable future.
The discussions brought about a deeper understanding of the effects of global economic, social and geopolitical factors that influence the progress of sustainability as well as topics such as building the right policy frameworks, sustainability in uncertain times and Asia’s water imperative, and attracting capital to sustainable enterprises.
Sparking change for the future
With Sunway University, Monash University Malaysia, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences as well as 13 other educational institutions under its purview, Sunway is very much aligned with SDG 4: Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.
Dr Cheah is a proud advocate of quality education, saying, “I view education as a calling and I believe I have a higher purpose in life, which is to do good and give back to society. Education is a not a profit-driven business, but of course, we must ensure that this initiative is sustainable.”
As such, any surplus generated by these educational institutions is ploughed back into the institutions and foundation for the benefit of students in the form of scholarships, expansion of faculty and facilities, and research grants.
Through the JCF, Sunway has, to date, contributed RM330mil in scholarships, including a generous allocation of RM60mil to more than 4,000 deserving students this year alone.
Among the various scholarships offered was the Sunway Sports Scholarship that was disbursed to Sunway University and Sunway College students who have demonstrated great potential in becoming top athletes, representing Malaysia in international sports meets. This year, Sunway University’s Julian Yee became the first ever Malaysian figure skater to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Up to 31 students were awarded this valuable scholarship this year, in the hopes of developing more world-class athletes.
Besides that, 185 students from disadvantaged backgrounds have received the JCF Community Scholarship since 2002 while three high achievers have been sent to the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford to pursue their tertiary education.
As testament to Dr Cheah’s firm belief that education is central to changing lives and that a fulfilled life is one filled with purpose and meaning, he pledges, “My goal is to give out more than RM1bil in scholarships in my lifetime.
“I think the most persuasive way is to lead by example. My personal motto is ‘I aspire to inspire before I expire’. The best way to inspire is by example.
“So many of our graduates at our institutions personally thanked me for the scholarships that made it possible for them to acquire quality higher education. I always remind them that they should now do their part and give back to society.”
Collaborating with Cambridge
Besides building on the academic relationship between JCF and renowned international universities such as Harvard, Oxford and Monash, Sunway has also made inroads in the areas of public health.
Its latest collaboration with the University of Cambridge last month further solidified Sunway’s commitment to excellence, giving back to society and SDG 3: Good health and well-being.
It includes the establishment of a joint programme between the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine, the Royal Papworth Hospital, Sunway Medical Centre, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Sunway University.
Representing the English university’s first such initiative in Asia, the Sunway Clinical Research Centre was established as part of the collaboration and will become a Regional Site Partner of the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine. The research centre is poised to tackle some of the world’s major medical challenges.
I have always wanted to see a two-way flow of scholars, researchers and experts between Sunway and world-renowned institutions including Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford to advance the education and healthcare standards in this part of the world.
This collaboration paves the way for regular academic visits and exchanges as well as scientific and clinical training opportunities at Cambridge for outstanding postgraduates from Sunway
Dr Cheah, who is confident that this research centre will be a game changer, says, “At Sunway, we are determined to raise standards in healthcare and education, providing the best possible to not just Malaysians but the 630 million strong population of the various members of Asean.
“Making people’s lives better is fundamental to what we do here, because we are passionate about sustainable development.
“I have always wanted to see a two-way flow of scholars, researchers and experts between Sunway and renowned institutions including Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford to advance the education and healthcare standards in this part of the world.”
Projects and research arising from this collaboration will ultimately bring about a better integrated approach to healthcare, clinical trials and research in Malaysia on matters related to the prevention, earlier diagnosis and improved treatments for a range of diseases that are unique to the Asian genetic composition.
The signed agreements also allow for Sunway Medical Centre to collaborate with two of the hospitals that are part of the Cambridge University Health Partners, namely the renowned Royal Papworth Hospital and Addenbrooke’s Hospital. This will help Sunway Medical Centre become Malaysia’s first private teaching hospital.
Sunway University also played host to 13 internationally acclaimed experts in the fields of stem cell science, technology and application on Nov 21 and 22.
These distinguished guests were part of the 2nd Cambridge-OxfordSunway Biomedical Symposium aimed at exploring recent advancements in stem cell research and how these breakthroughs were being exploited to transform patient care.
Other initiatives by Sunway include hosting an annual training seminar of the International Society for Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, and setting a target of investing more than RM1.2bil over the next five years to build another five hospitals in Malaysia.
The article originally appeared in The Star, CSR Pullout