Monday 02 Oct 2023
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This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on June 21, 2021 - June 27, 2021

These are dynamic and volatile times.

We cannot deny that we are witnessing unprecedented economic, environmental and social changes on a global scale and at an accelerating pace, which are disrupting our ways of life and how we conduct business.

Without decisive, deliberate and coordinated action, the world will continue to face economic disruptions, environmental degradation and social injustices, posing a significant threat to progress towards a better future for all.

Transformative leadership is needed now, not only to address these challenges, but also to shape a sustainable future, where businesses are progressive and people can have a clear pathway to attaining prosperity. Business as usual is simply no longer an option. It now falls upon leaders to join forces to ensure businesses continue to survive and indeed, thrive.

It is in this spirit that the CEO Action Network, also known as CAN, has been established as a closed-door peer-to-peer informal network of CEOs. It is a coalition of like-minded leaders with a shared purpose: focused on sustainability advocacy, capacity building, action and performance.

The pioneering members of CAN comprise a total of 44 leading businesses in Malaysia, representing more than 20 priority sectors. Governed by an appointed steering committee and its chair, CAN is driven by experienced and inspiring leaders, committed to leading by example and determined to accelerate sustainable business practices in Malaysia.

CAN is a unique platform where CEOs convene to mobilise collective commitments, and project a collective voice and common themes across corporate Malaysia. CAN hopes to inspire collective action through the exchange of skills, resources, networks, learnings — all towards achieving tangible results for business and supporting the ecosystem with positive economic, environmental, social and governance impacts.

CEOs have been invited to collaborate with CAN to drive sustainability for the greater good. This greater good is not only for the industries that we represent and the businesses that we are championing for growth, as CAN presents an opportunity to work with fellow CEOs to create a powerful collective force that would help shape policies, align with stakeholders and create a favourable ecosystem for business and sustainable development.

Let’s examine the reality that businesses face today. Increasingly, businesses are contending with unprecedented pressure from their investors, regulators, financiers, customers and staff. Many, if not all, are demanding we demonstrate our sustainability credentials and climate resilience against the backdrop of global warming and climate change. Not only must we be able to cogently articulate our climate ambitions, the expectation is steadily building for businesses to demonstrate their ability and commitment to navigate transition in support of the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals.

With this in mind, there is an urgent need for an alignment of government policies between economic, climate and energy priorities, against a backdrop of the socio-economic wellbeing of citizens.

The evidence compellingly supports the argument that when government policies are explicit, clear and coherent, the private sector will be in a better position to respond by driving actions to facilitate a smooth transition for businesses and the public alike.

Members of CAN have been working closely with a small group of partners to facilitate a multi-ministerial engagement to strengthen our national climate ambition.

We would like to encourage and invite wider involvement of the private sector and civil society in this engagement to capture the views and insights of as many key stakeholders as possible. The points raised will then be reflected in the final report of recommendations for the government to carefully consider.

Planning for a smooth transition will require a Whole of Society and All of Government approach. Every segment of our society and economy will need to step up to address the very real risks and equally, capture the opportunities which we are presented with today.

Concurrently, government support by way of policies and incentives will be a definitive requirement to facilitate this journey.

The series of round table engagements to discuss increased national climate ambition are jointly organised by CAN and Climate Governance Malaysia. The above thoughts were shared during the first round table session with the private sector entitled “Can Malaysia Achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2050?” held on April 16.

I would like to invite all of you to support and actively participate in this round table engagement so that we can collectively benefit from the diversity of views and the insights of the best minds we have in Malaysia’s private sector and civil society today.

All sessions are open to the public.

Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz is chairman of the CEO Action Network and president and group CEO of Petronas. This column is part of a series coordinated by Climate Governance Malaysia, the national chapter of the World Economic Forum’s Climate Governance Initiative (CGI). The CGI is an effort to support boards of directors in discharging their duty of care as long-term stewards of the companies they oversee, specifically, to ensure that climate risks and opportunities are adequately addressed.

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