BusinessToday reached out to corporate players to share their thoughts on embracing ESG values and integrating them into their operations. In the first part of the series, Homage Malaysia’s Country Manager, PC Gan shares her thoughts with BT on ESGs.
“My personal opinion is that in Malaysia, ESG values tend to only be practiced by companies that need to meet minimum regulation requirements,” PC Gan, Homage Malaysia’s Country Manager tells BusinessToday.
ESG, or better known as Environmental Social and Governance, are a set of principles for a company’s operations that social conscious investors use to screen potential investments.
She highlights the number of waters cuts that Malaysians have faced in Selangor in the past months. Time and again, these cuts take place due to the water pollution that came from the same factory. Despite the issue affecting many across the state and have garnered a lot of media coverage along with fines from enforcement agencies, Gan says the company is a fine example of a repeat offender who does not take the ESG values seriously.
“Companies are aware of the ESG movement, but for many entrepreneurs, cost is still their number one priority. What is the cheaper option? Waste disposal is a particularly pertinent example. Some companies would rather pay the fine or penalty and continue improperly disposing their waste because it’s cheaper and more convenient,” Gan says of companies who would rather invest in setting up a proper, ESG-certified waste disposal system.
“Ignorance is often blamed for companies not embracing ESG values, but sometimes it can also be pure selfishness – especially when it comes to profit and loss.”
When Gan first started with Homage, she realised that nurses in Malaysia were classified as blue-collar workers and she could not understand this perception. Their work requires a fine balance of both professional medical skills such as catheter changing and nasogastric tube (NGT) feeding, as well as a good grasp of human psychology.
“However, it is a fact that do not receive enough recognition and are severely undervalued, both in monetary and professional terms,” she says.
Highlighting the ‘social’ aspect of the ESG, Gan says that part of the set examines whether a company upholds its values in its relationships with other businesses and the community at large. Homage’s mission includes empowering professional outside of traditional medical institutions.
According to Gan, Homage pays their Care Professionals above the market rate in order to reflect their expertise.
Gan says Homage’s decision to do so naturally translates into a lower margin for them. “However, our dedication to our cause is not a one-off gesture, it is a long-term investment to drive change in our healthcare system. So, it pays to stand firm on our commitment to our Care Pros,” she says.
The Country Manager also believes that people should not have to pay extra to receive quality healthcare. Ensuring that citizen wellbeing is taken care of should already be something that should be funded with tax money.
Homage hopes to reach out to the Government and start the important conversations that needs to be had about healthcare in Malaysia.
Homage was founded with the intention of changing the conversation around healthcare access and the treatment of healthcare professionals. “Adopting ESG value is a reflection of our continued commitment towards that goal and to inspire others to do the same, not for any short-term benefit,” Gan says.
Gan tells BusinessToday that Malaysian nurses are highly sought after proving that the Malaysian syllabus and nursing schools are of good quality however the good nurses the country produces are often left to fend for themselves with limited support due to the lack of ESG values in the industry.
“We believe in more recognition for our frontliners and we al have a responsibility to better protect them. While persevering alone as an entity might not make a huge impact in the beginning, it is a necessary first step that could inspire others to follows.”
In order to raise awareness, Gan believes going on-ground to really understand the situation, speaking to people and seeing the difference is vital for company decision-makers to get a first-hand understanding of the positive impact of ESG implementation.
“I elected to have a home swab conducted with a Homage Care Pro and was amazed by the professionalism she showed, from meticulously donning the PPE to explaining the full procedure in detail so I knew what to expect during the swab.
“It struck me that even after over a year of doing her part in the fight against Covid-19, enduring unimaginable fatigue and exposing herself to risks, our Care Pro still handled the swab with infinite patience and swift professionalism,” she shared.
This drove the point home for Gan that healthcare professionals deserve so much more. “Practising ESG was never in question for us – it was the obvious choice because we knew the impact it could have,” Gan says.
“We need to educate businesses on the consequences of their actions and push them to take more initiative and responsibility in contributing to the community. Meanwhile, parties in the government need to crack the whip on the irresponsible, non-accountable organisations.
“They have the power and the choice to make a difference. If enforcement is properly practised such incidents can be prevented,” she says.
She is also stressed that if the government and other healthcare institutions recognise and support efforts to drive a minimum acceptable pay standard for professional nurses and caregivers and enforce prevention standards, this will become the new baseline for the treatment of healthcare professionals everywhere in Malaysia and directly influence change in the industry.
Homage found a treatment gap especially for seniors as the virus was said to be becoming more prevalent in nursing homes. Hospitals were being used as Covid-19 treatment and recovery centres which made them high-risk areas for seniors.
To help out, the care home stepped up their home care service on top of offering home Covid-19 swab tests to relive some of the caregiving burden from hospital personnel and bridge the treatment gap in the comfort of the patient’s home.
“We often take for granted the fact that nurses and caregivers put themselves at medical risk every day as part of their job. However, they deserve to be protected too.
“We prioritise the safety and wellbeing of both the patients that we serve and our Care Professionals, which is why our CPs follow strict SOPs and wear full PPE protective gear during house visits. Nurses who are doing home visits and home swab tests are also clearly segregated from nurses who work in hospitals to prevent cross-infection and to maintain a safe environment for both parties,” she says.
“Since we are a service-oriented company, our adoption of ESG values has a stronger focus on the social aspect of ESG. Our ESG values are very closely related to the entire reason why Homage exist, which makes governance much easier as we make this clear to everyone from the beginning from our potential investors to new hires and Care Pros.
“We want there to be no doubts about our mission to drive change in the healthtech landscape, and everyone that we onboard understand that they are a part of making this mission a success,” Gan concludes.