We interviewed Amarjit Chhina, Chief Corporate Officer of Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad, on his wisdom and thoughts on sustainability and why organisations should embrace sustainability as a corporate strategy.
Let’s hear it from him:
1. What drives your passion for sustainability?
I wouldn’t say I am passionate about sustainability - that makes me sound like a tree-hugging environmentalist, which is very far from the truth! I am quite pragmatic though, and I do understand that as a member of the Senior Management of a listed company, I have a duty of care to my board and a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the company and all its shareholders. Sustainability risks are ultimately financial risks that have the potential to destroy a lot of value, so all I am really doing is my job, and obviously, doing things ethically and responsibly is also the right thing to do, which is very important to me.
2. How do you define “success” through the lens of sustainability?
Sustainability is a journey, and in certain areas like the climate, it has evolved very rapidly. The sheer pace at which things have moved, has frankly, been astounding and very challenging to stay on top of, and I think it would be very presumptuous and premature to be talking about success at this juncture! We have a very, very long way to go. I think success, for now, is embarking on that journey and taking those initial steps. We now need to ensure that we bring everyone along on this journey with us - our staff, our suppliers, our customers and all our other stakeholders. Only after we have done that, can we begin to truly define success.
3. How is corporate sustainability important for business?
All sustainability risks are ultimately financial risks – governance, environmental, and human rights violations all represent financial risks to a corporation, as they will lead to financial penalties, a loss of sales, an inability to raise financing, and reputational damage, all of which will hit profitability and result in devaluation. Addressing and driving sustainability builds resilience against these risks and prevents value destruction. Even more importantly, sustainability opens up many new markets and opportunities for value creation! In truth, businesses have had to manage sustainability issues in all their different forms since the dawn of time, and those that have been ahead of the curve and adapted have excelled, while those that haven’t have disappeared. The future will be no different.
4. What is the fundamental and most crucial corporate sustainability strategy?
I think good corporate governance, ethics, and transparency are the cornerstones of sustainability. Without these, it’s impossible to have a successful sustainability strategy. Corporate history is littered with the failures of Fortune 500 companies due to a lack of good governance, ethics, and transparency. Ultimately it is about building trust and being authentic.