Education has always been the key to success and in the world that we live in today, there exists an urgent need to educate the populace, especially the younger generation, in the areas of social responsibility and sustainability. The relevance and importance of this aspect of education can never be over emphasised as the increasing destruction of our planet on many fronts is becoming a serious threat to human life. In an interview with Education+Tvet Asia, Lee Seng Chee, Co-Chairman of CSR Malaysia and Sustainability Malaysia talks about his involvement in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiatives in Malaysia and the importance of education as the first step towards a better world for all.
Born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, Lee Seng Chee has seen and experienced the deteriorating quality of life all around him over the years. To him, the many endeavours carried out by human beings in the name of development and progress towards a better life are in fact causing much harm to man. “I believe that there is much to be done and should be done from the social responsibility and sustainability perspectives to mitigate such devastating effects to human lives,” says Lee who is the Co-Chairman of CSR Malaysia.
CSR Malaysia is a social initiative and publication approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Malaysia that started some ten years ago. “The CSR Malaysia publications share the wide-ranging CSR as well as sustainability initiatives carried out by corporations and organisations as well as the needy causes in the country. It actively assists in bringing solutions to bear upon them,” says Lee. “While CSR Malaysia carries out its own CSR and sustainability activities, particularly in connection with children homes, orphanages and old folks’ homes, it also brings together corporations and individuals with a heart for CSR and sustainability, and promote an effective engagement with those who need to be beneficiaries of meaningful CSR and sustainability initiatives in one way or the other, be they people, environment or animals. The publication is also a connection of current social and environmental needs, to as many CSR and sustainability initiatives as possible with a view to promoting a better world for all.”
CSR Malaysia also holds its annual CSR Malaysia & Sustainability Awards event that is participated by Malaysia’s public-listed companies, SMEs and NGOs to honour their outstanding contributions to CSR and sustainability causes. “The event is also to inspire and motivate outstanding corporations to advance in their contribution in the areas of CSR and sustainability in Malaysia and also to inspire other corporations to emulate their achievements and successes,” explains Lee.
Lee believes that education is the first step to achieving greater understanding and knowledge in the areas of social responsibility and sustainability for soliciting the much needed cooperation and contribution by individuals as well as businesses in these areas. Towards this end, CSR Malaysia will soon be promoting and offering its quality CSR and sustainability certification courses at executive and managerial levels to those interested in pursuing a career in the CSR and sustainability arena. “This is done in collaboration with Institut Mayang and is aimed at providing the necessary knowledge and skills to those who are in the CSR and sustainability sectors of businesses and also to inspire and motivate those planning to be involved so that they can also contribute meaningfully,” says Lee. “Following CSR Malaysia’s collaboration with Institut Mayang to offer CSR and sustainability certification courses, participants, upon completion of their respective courses, will be awarded the Certified Sustainability Executive – Certificate of Completion, Certified Corporate Sustainability Professional – Certificate of Completion and Certified CSR Practitioner – Certificate of Completion, all of which are endorsed by Pertubuhan Amal Tanggungjawab Kemapanan Dan Korporat Malaysia, the national organization for Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility,” he adds.
Lee is also the Co-Chairman of Pertubuhan Amal Tanggungjawab Kemapanan Dan Korporat Malaysia (Sustainability Malaysia). “Sustainability Malaysia is the national body for sustainability and it aims to carry out activities and programmes to promote sustainability efforts on a broad scale,” says the Co-Chairman. “Its objectives include promoting the importance of corporate sustainability and social responsibility through educational programmes, raise business sustainability consciousness in corporate communities, instil noble sustainability values in the younger generation, carry out welfare programmes to help the needy, collaborate with corporate and government bodies to promote a sustainable community and to help the poor plus to honour local corporate companies that champion sustainability and social responsibility causes.”
“Corporate sustainability encompasses a great and noble ambition and focusses on the long-term continuity of the business itself,” says Lee. “It involves the implementation of business strategies that focus on the ethical, social, environmental, cultural and economic aspects of doing business that will ultimately create long-term stakeholder value,” he adds.
Lee recently received the Special Award for Outstanding Contribution Towards Early Childhood Education and Development in Malaysia from Koperasi Pendidikan Swasta Malaysia Berhad (Private Education Cooperative of Malaysia). When asked about his views on the importance of ECE, Lee replies, “A child’s early years are the all-important foundation for his or her future development. ECE provides a strong foundation for cognitive, social development as well as for learning abilities and lifelong learning. It is vital to have the right inputs to be given to the young lives during their early childhood years for they are the future of society and of the nation.” “As I believe in starting them young on the right footing, the themes of social responsibility and sustainability are liberally incorporated into our ECE syllabus, programmes and activities,” he adds.
When asked about the role TVET can play in promoting sustainability, Lee says, “TVET lays the foundation for students to be equipped with specific skills to meet specific job requirements and this places them in a more advantageous footing in the employment scene as they are already trained and equipped with the right skills.” “TVET can play an important role in implementing and promoting sustainable development as TVET students who will be in the workforce in the future will be in the forefront dealing directly with sustainable issues. Ideas for sustainable development can be purposefully integrated in the TVET curriculum, its delivery as well as learning contents, and mirrored in the institution’s policies and practices.”
One of the greatest challenges Lee faced in his career is in the area of human resources. “This area has presented the greatest challenge to me in my career, particularly in terms of working attitudes and required skills. I notice that there is the less than desirable level of interest, passion for work and pride of work in many employees,” says Lee. “This has a direct connection to the issues of social responsibility and sustainability that need to be urgently addressed.” “It is not sufficient that the students of today are only empowered to develop innovative mindsets, be creative, resourceful and have critical thinking abilities, it is also vital for them to develop the right character and for the right life values to be inculcated in them,” says Lee.
Lee’s advice to students who are interested in pursuing a tertiary or private education is to choose a course of study that they have interest in and one that is suited to their strengths. “Consider whether a particular course would give you the outcome that you desire or provide you with pathway options. Weigh all the options available before making an informed decision,” advises Lee. “Avoid choosing a course just to please others or because you think you should, even if it is a prestigious one,” he adds. “Also remember that while the acquisition of transferable skills is extremely important to one’s career success for they can be applied everywhere in the world and in any vocation, profession, trade or endeavour, you should always embrace the all-important social responsibility and sustainability aspects of life in what you do.”