Being one of the success stories with the Millennium Development Goals, Malaysia is continuing to lead the way in the efforts to promote and integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their success can be attributed to the government taking ownership and responsibility towards the country’s vision in integrating all 17 SDGs goals in the 11th Malaysia Plan (existing national development plan). The nation has already seen successes in their progress, such as the achievement of the 30% target of women in decision-making roles in the public sector and a respectable 7.3% increase of working women at primary level.

The government’s investments in the integration have paved the way for organizations to lay down their contribution towards the goals. So how do companies in Malaysia interact with the SDGs? To get an overview of this question, we took a look at corporate responsibility practices in the published reports and websites of top 30 largest companies in Malaysia as listed by ASEANUP.

The are four ways that companies choose to engage with the SDGs (observed by United Nations Global Compact when surveying 1,950 business participants.)

1. Core business: Aligning the SDGs with core business goes beyond matching current projects with the respective SDGs. It means reviewing companies’ material issues, aligning them with the relevant 17 SDGs and setting clear goals and KPIs. Within Malaysia, out of 30 companies, only 30% have made the shift to aligning. Malayan Bank, for instance, identified 10 most relevant SDGs with their business priorities by connecting 7 material issues with relevant SDGs and committed to taking actions and reporting on progress.

The remaining 70% are yet to publicly announce their plans to incorporate the SDGs into their core business. However, we have noticed an interaction through their corporate responsibility initiatives.  For example, UMW Automotive Division has committed to a net positive impact on the environment rather than just mitigate its impact, which can align directly with SDG 13: Climate Change, SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production,  SDG 15: Life on land.


2. Partnerships: Developing partnerships opportunities with non-governmental or non-profit organizations and other enterprises were well utilized by those Malaysian companies. For example, in support of SDG 3: Good health and well-being, Telekom Malaysia worked alongside Childline Malaysia & the Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia to develop to help families identify and review over 3,000 child care centers registered under the Child Care Centre Act 1984.

3. Social Investment and Philanthropy: Among 30 largest companies, 90% of them made social investments based on focus areas that align with business priorities that have some connection to an SDG. Maxis Berhad’s community programs were developed in alignment with their business objectives –  becoming the preferred choice for digital experiences seekers. The company worked closely with Communication and Multimedia Commission to deliver communication facilities and services for the benefit of rural and remote populations. The program can directly be linked to SDG goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure.

4. Advocacy: Within top 30 largest companies, 3 most active advocates are YTL Group, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad, and Sime Darby Berhad. YTL Group; who is  listed as an official delivery partner of the Global Goals in Malaysia alongside Google, SalesForce, The Huffington Post and other global organizations; has collaborated with the Ministry of Education to deliver a short animated film on the Global Goals across 10,000 schools as well as on screens across all YTL locations through their subsidiary Frogasia.

Some of the large Malaysian companies can be seen as pioneers leading the way in incorporating the SDGs into their sustainability strategies and make a planned and intended contribution to Global Goals. The remaining organizations are yet to fully get in-line with the SDGs.  For Malaysian companies, it is not about whether or not they need to incorporate the SDGs into operations, the question is when and how. The real challenge in SDGs implementation is, indeed, to measure, track and report on the progress.