Now or never— ESG as a business imperative

If there is one thing that the pandemic has emphasised time and time again is that there is no alternative to sustainable development. To be fair, considering how the Covid-19 has upended societies, disrupted businesses, and left millions unemployed, it is indeed a wake-up call to the magnitude of disruptions we could face if we remain idle towards issues on sustainability.


It is imperative for businesses to rethink their ESG commitments, in an effort to emerge stronger from the pandemic

Hence, it is only fair for governments, investors, and businesses to take heed. For starters, in Malaysia, the government's commitment to catalysing the sustainability agenda is reflected in last year’s budget measures. The 2021 Budget, which has a special focus on sustainability, is aligned with the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and designed to move Malaysia towards a more sustainable future.

There have also been other localised efforts to improve SDG, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and even climate change by the Malaysian government. Some of it includes the Green Technology Financing Scheme, the Green Investment Tax Allowance, the Green Income Tax Exemption, and even the MyHIJAU Mark program under the Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre (MGTC).

This highlights that it is imperative for businesses to rethink their ESG commitments, in an effort to emerge stronger from the pandemic. Of course, embedding more sustainable practices will require combined efforts from businesses, the government, and the public to plan and drive improvements over the long term. And for the necessary impact, it has to start soon than later.

ESG and SGDs -- just buzzwords or more?

Frankly speaking, a resilient business is one that understands how issues and the operating environment around ESG are dynamic and constantly evolving  -- and therefore watches and adapts accordingly. As for Covid-19, it has taught us that no matter how foreseeable a risk may be, the impact an event has on society and business hinges on our ability to plan for significant disruptions and changes in the operating environment.

While SDG and ESG are concepts for resolving environmental and social issues in order to attain the ideal of a sustainable society, the former applies to all stakeholders, including countries and the general public, while the latter primarily applies to the business community and companies. In short, SDG are goals, while ESG represents the methods and processes for achieving them.

For example, a company that emphasises an ESG value, such as replacing plastic straws with their paper counterpart, is helping to achieve SDG 13, which calls for concrete action against climate change, as well as Goal 14 for conserving and sustaining the oceans.

TM R&D’s sustainability journey

For TM to realise the Digital Malaysia aspiration, efforts on ESG will be ramped up and become one of its main agendas. Similarly in TM R&D, our ESG commitments are an essential part of our firm-wide strategy, deeply integrated into our business and long-term priorities, yet nimble to adjust and respond to the ever-changing realities around the globe.

Being the innovation arm of TM, TM R&D's role is one filled with extensive use and deep technology knowledge. Our research has focused on innovation and solutions without losing sight of socio-economic awareness and responsibility.


TM R&D focuses on innovation and solutions without losing sight of socio-economic awareness and responsibility

In fact, our award-winning innovations have so far been ubiquitous and far-reaching in impact, be it in urban or rural areas in Malaysia. For starters, our innovations and solutions have been aligned with the sustainability requirements of the United Nation's SDG. In certain aspects, the innovations and solutions also fulfil the ESG criteria.

This is considering how both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have been the mainstay technologies that TM R&D has leveraged for optimum outcomes.

An AI-powered Cable Cut Prevention System -- PATROL

As we know it, AI and ML algorithms help in enabling businesses to predict and be proactive with calculated risks. So at TM R&D, we came up with a system known as PATROL which uses dashcams and leverages AI, object detection capabilities, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to detect and assess risks in construction areas.

What the system can do is automatically check if there is any unregistered civil and construction activity in close proximity of underground or overhead cable infrastructure. This has allowed a faster response to prevent or resolve possible damage to cables. Within the innovation and infrastructure aspects, lies the SDGs. Looking through the ESG lens, PATROL has prevented wastage of resources including time, energy, and money.

Smart Water Integrated Management System -- SWIMS

SWIMS is basically an Internet of Water (IoW) solution that offers end-to-end smart water management to improve non-revenue water management. The system even optimises repair and replacement of ageing infra, while improving response to weather events such as water level and quality.


SWIMS is an Internet of Water (IoW) solution that contributes to SDG 6 which is “clean water and sanitation

TM R&D has developed it as an agnostic platform that caters to all types of IoT devices, platforms, and connectivity while providing invaluable customer behaviour and predictive insights for the water industry. So when it comes to the sustainability aspect, SWIMS contributes to SDG 6 which is “clean water and sanitation” as this innovation provides efficient management of a potentially scarce resource and controls wastage as well as maintains cleanliness.

Environmental sustainability is the key to survival

Risks can be very abrupt, like the Covid-19 pandemic or they can be long-term, like the potential for climate change to disrupt business. Either way, the most resilient and sustainable businesses think about those risks and manage them before it can cause revenue or reputational losses.

For TM R&D, ours is to further integrate ESG requirements with our future innovations on top of our existing ones. We will constantly work towards ensuring that the solutions developed will serve a purpose towards turning ESG into a reality not only for our business and partners but also one that would hopefully empower society around us.

It is necessary to understand that sustainability will need to be at the front and centre of any corporate strategy, operations, and reporting. Moving forward, people will pay attention to how businesses manage risks associated with human capital, communities, and the environment, because essentially, ESG isn’t just a three-letter buzzword: it’s about resilience and sustainability.

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