Since its inception in 1974, Sunway Bhd has prioritised sustainability long before sustainable development became a global concern. This long journey has culminated in the company’s walking away with The Edge Billion Ringgit Club (BRC) award for Best CR Initiatives: Below RM10 Billion Market Capitalisation.

Founder and chairman Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah has always made sustainability — which it defines as more than just being green — an integral part of Sunway’s business and decision-making processes, which culminated in the group’s adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) in 2015. The company has also set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2020, despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the nova coronavirus, the diversified group remains steadfast to its goal, owing to its long-term sustainability strategies that focus on risk management and reducing energy and water consumption.

“On the environmental front, we have reduced 11,611 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions through tree planting, energy efficiency, renewable energy and waste management,” it says in its 2020 annual report. “This is largely due to our robust environmental initiatives, which include the installation of solar panels. In 2020, our solar energy consumption increased from 1% to 3%, saving 7,408mwh.”

It also reduced water consumption by 28% from a year ago and kept 4% of its waste out of landfills, thanks to its food composting facilities and e-bins, which collect old and obsolete appliances and digital technology for recycling.

Meanwhile, the group’s flagship township, Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, has been selected as one of the three overarching hubs of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN-SDSN), alongside New York City and Paris, to coordinate continent-wide sustainability initiatives for Asia, the Americas and Europe, as well as Africa, respectively.

“Reflecting Sunway’s incorporation of the sustainability agenda and its commitment to advancing the UN-SDGs in the Asian region, the SDSN centre for Asia will be housed in Sunway University,” the group says, adding that the centre will be the head office of the SDG Academy, the education arm of the centre, which is developing a curriculum on sustainable development that will be a compulsory subject from kindergarten to Year 12 around the world.

It has also, through the Sunway Innovation Labs (iLabs), established to nurture youths to develop transformative ideas that will power the future, set up Sunway FutureX — the country’s first skill-building hub for urban farming innovations. The group says that, besides being its first foray into the agri-food sector, this marked its contribution to the country’s food security.

In addition, with French tech school Ecole43, the group has launched a pioneering programming school with a tuition-free education model called “42KL” to equip young people with the skills and capabilities needed to thrive in the digital economy amid the new normal.

Aside from its sustainability-focused initiatives, the group, throughout 2020, contributed to communities in need and those whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, as well as frontliners, who tirelessly battled the spread of the virus. The initiatives included providing medical supplies to government hospitals and pledging RM12 million for the decanting of non-Covid-19 patients from public health facilities; sponsoring more than 26,000 room nights worth about RM2.9 million for quarantined people under surveillance; working with Yayasan Kebajikan Negara Malaysia and various non-governmental organisations to feed B40 families; and raising funds for hygiene essentials to be given to the underprivileged.

Looking ahead, the group remains committed to building a sustainable future by using technology and innovation, and to ensure long-term value creation. “The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated our digitalisation journey. This will continue to motivate us to become more data-driven and digitally connected to stay relevant and promote new technologies as we adapt to the demands of the information economy,” it adds.