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SME Bank Journey Towards Building A Sustainable Future

KUALA LUMPUR : 12 July 2022

SME Bank has been stepping up its Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda in its business operations since the formation of its three-year Sustainability Roadmap in 2021 (Roadmap) and the successful issuance of its maiden Sustainability Sukuk of RM500 million also in 2021.

SME Bank Group President / Chief Executive Officer, (Dr.) Aria Putera Ismail said, “The Roadmap outlines SME Bank’s near-term objectives and longer-term goals and commitments in embedding ESG DNA in its business operations. The Roadmap is segregated into three phases which include ESG Initiation & Streamlining Business Focus, ESG Implementation & Streamlining Non-Business Focus and ESG Adoption & Continuous Improvements towards Sustainability.”  

Aria added, “As we continue with the second year of implementing the Roadmap, the focus is now on institutionalising ESG culture across the Bank, creating maximum ESG awareness with the customers and establishing our own comprehensive and customized Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Framework. Development of the SDG Framework involves several key milestones such as the materiality assessment amongst the Bank’s various stakeholders, identifying the gaps and aligning the Bank’s strategies with the ESG goals.”   

SME Bank Head, Sustainability & Strategic Management, Zakiah Mat Esa said, “Overall, the Bank’s sustainability journey is centered on three pillars namely Responsible Banking, Responsible Business Practices and Creating Social Impact. In addition, SME Bank’s sustainability agenda is also aligned with Bank Negara Malaysia’s Performance Measurement Framework.

Zakiah added, “Basically, the term “ESG” and “Sustainability” are used interchangeably and shall bring to the same meaning. Presently, we are in the midst of conducting a survey on the materiality issues with selected stakeholders which include customers, relevant ministries, agencies, employees, NGOs, local communities, chambers of commerce, associations, vendors and investors. The findings from the survey will enable the Bank to identify what issues are important to these stakeholders and from there, the Bank will formulate the relevant strategies to achieve our sustainability goals which are aligned with the United Nation Sustainability Development Goals (SDG).”

The measures taken thus far by SME Bank indicates that it is on the right track in achieving its sustainability goals. One of the important elements that is being given priority is making ESG as a culture across the Bank. This is being done by having continuous and impactful activities with the staff. The official tagline used by SME Bank on this sustainability effort is, "Think Sustainably, Act Responsibly". It was derived from a competition organised for the staff.

Amongst the ESG activities that were conducted was the Blood Donation Drive where a total 56 bags of blood was collected from the Bank’s staff and the general public at Menara SME Bank on 17 June 2022. SME Bank and its Sports and Recreation Club have also collaborated with the Penang State Forestry Department and planted 1,300 mangrove trees in the Balik Pulau Forest Reserve on 25 June 2022. Organized in conjunction with the "Green Future Ride 2022 SME Bank" from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, the tree planting program was participated by 179 staff. This is also part of the SME Bank’s initiative in supporting the Government’s campaign to plant 100 million trees by 2025.

As for the issuance of the Sustainable Sukuk, SME Bank was the first Development Financial Institution (DFI) to undertake the exercise and it has been acknowledged locally and internationally. SME Bank Sustainable Sukuk was honored with various prestigious awards; amongst others, the “Best ASEAN Green SRI Sukuk” from Alpha South East Asia, the “Best Sustainability Sukuk for 2021” from The Asset Triple A and “SRI & ESG Deal of the Year Awards” from Islamic Finance News. Let’s take this sustainability journey together towards achieving our Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.