CEOs need to lead by example

Leading the way in good corporate behaviour is a top mangement challenge. At the recent StarBiz-ICR Malaysia CR Exchange a forum on CR In the Workplace: Issues & Best Practices past winner Guinness Anchor Bhd human resources director R. Sujitha Rajaratnam and finalist Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd president and CEO Bi Yong Chungunco both in the workplace category shared their views and strategies on how to ensure a sustainable CR programme. Leaderonomics founder and CEO Roshan Thiran also shared his insights on the importance of a long-term CR plan. The forum was held in conjunction with the StarBiz-ICR Malaysia Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010.

PETALING JAYA: CEOs and top executives must be seen to practise the corporate responsibility (CR) initiatives implemented by their companies, if they expect their employees to take those measures seriously.

“Top management must walk the talk and practise what they preach in the CR initiatives implemented by their companies.

“If top management does not practise the CR initiatives as set out, can they really expect their employees to follow?” Leaderonomics founder and CEO Roshan Thiran said.

Roshan, who was a guest speaker at the StarBiz-ICR Malaysia CR Exchange last Monday, observed that there were a number of local companies (listed and unlisted), including those at top management that do not fully appreciate the CR agenda and the benefits derived from good CR initiatives. Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd president and CEO Bi Yong Chungunco

“CR today is beyond philanthropy and charity work. It is, in fact, a critical element in the development of a sustainable business model to enable companies to remain competitive globally,” he told StarBiz.

Roshan said CR encompassed many factors ranging from initiatives taken to retain and attract talent, appropriate and sustainable raw material sourcing as well as having a “social mission” in business.

He said companies must not only have a profit mission but also a social mission that involves giving back to the community.

Roshan predicted that in 20 to 30 years, all businesses would need to have a social mission to remain competitive and profitable.

He said: “Organisations that don't have a social mission will not be around long-term, as CR creates shareholder value and makes business sense.”

He cited several companies, including AirAsia Bhd and General Electric Co, as exemplary companies that had a social mission imbued in their businesses, beyond being profitable.

“AirAsia's famous tagline “Now everyone can fly” underscores the airline's mission to open up opportunities for air travel to more people globally,” Roshan noted .

In the case of General Electric, he said the company had a strong commitment to engage the communities with programmes such as “ecomagination challenge” while PepsiCo Inc, a soft-drink manufacturer, had now moved towards providing more health-based drinks.

Roshan said successful companies with good CR were able to attract talent and also to get the community's trust and support. This is a win-win situation as when communities thrive businesses will also thrive,” he said.

Not marketing gimmicks

Roshan said some people might view such CR exercises as marketing gimmicks but the top management of companies, especially those in leadership position, must believe in it (that CR initiatives provide tangible long-term benefits) and take proactive steps to resolve issues, even if short-term losses occur in their businesses.

He said CR should be led by those at the top and they must also learn to be more engaging with employees.

“Senior management must be seen to not only talk about CR but must actively take part in such initiatives to show colleagues of their commitment to the CR cause,” he added.

Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd president and CEO Bi Yong Chungunco, another guest speaker at the forum, said an area in which Lafarge had promoted CR in the workplace was through the health and safety aspects.

She said logistics safety was an important area for Lafarge as the company transported almost all cement sold in the peninsula.

“We believe companies cannot achieve “excellence in business if they cannot achieve excellence in safety. This is why the safety and health aspect are emphasised in Lafarge,” Chungunco said.

She added: “Lafarge conducts health and safety engagement every year where we revisit and re-state the policy and commit ourselves by signing the policy in every country where we are present.”

Chungunco said Lafarge involved the spouses of employees, who were mainly male truck drivers, to appeal to their sense of responsibility on the road, where they were often driving alone.

“We ask the wives to tell their husbands to come home safe, that their families need them. In fact, we make them hold hands at our Transporters' Safety Day and make that a commitment,” she said.

Other CR commitments include provision of reflector safety belts and GPS systems in the trucks to better monitor the drivers.

Lafarge Malayan Cement was a finalist in the StarBiz-ICR Malaysia awards in 2008 and 2009 under the workplace category.

Guinness Anchor Bhd (GAB) human resources director R. Sujitha Rajaratnam emphasised how the company engaged employees by giving them opportunities to reach their full potential.

“Each employee will have a career development plan encompassing training and development aimed at encouraging and enabling their growth,” she said.

Other initiatives in GAB, a StarBiz-ICR Malaysia award winner in 2010 under the workplace category, included a responsible drinking policy and healthy living.

The company encourages a work-life balance where flexi-time is practised, with a “home early” programme in the pipeline.

The investment in GAB employees is paying off. “We've delivered nine consecutive years of growth in revenue, profit and market share,” she said.