Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), Chairman Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jaafar and Sime Darby Group CEO Datuk Jeffri Salim Davidson use the word ‘impact’ a lot when talking about the foundation’s work over its 40 years of existence. existence. “The most important thing is that the projects we fund must have an impact. We should not just do things, but what we do should have a purpose – it will also help the recipients of the funds,” Tunku Imran insists.
The YSD team has an example to cite – its long-term support for the reforestation and rehabilitation of heavily degraded forests in Ulu Segama, Sabah, has not only created lush forest that supports a growing population of orangutans , but also led to a change in policy. It is now known as Bukit Piton Forest Reserve and will remain untouched forever. “The seedlings originally planted are now mature trees, which are important food sources for the orangutan and ultimately a rich habitat for them and other wildlife in this area,” adds Jeffri, who is also a member of the board of YSD.
Sime Darby Bhd started doing corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environment, social and governance (ESG) 40 years ago, long before those terms entered our lexicon. YSD was established in 1982 to provide scholarships to exceptional and deserving individuals and today is a multi-faceted entity providing wide-ranging assistance that also supports conservation, awareness and development programs. The foundation is now the main driver of the CSR initiatives of Sime Darby Bhd, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd and Sime Darby Property Bhd.
“The foundation would not have existed without the vision of its founders, including the late Tun Dr Ismail Ali, the visionary Tunku Tan Sri Ahmad Tunku Yahya and our former presidents, including Tun Musa Hitam, who was with us for over 10 years “, shares Tunku Imran. “With the synergy we have built and cultivated within the foundation, and with our close network of donors, beneficiaries and partners, we are now continuing our pursuit of the common dream we share to make world a better place for everyone.”
Following the merger of Golden Hope Plantations Bhd, Kumpulan Guthrie Bhd and Kumpulan Sime Darby Bhd to create the expanded Sime Darby Bhd, YSD’s focus was realigned in 2008 under the leadership of Musa Hitam, then Chairman. It was also during his time that the five pillars of the foundation were established: to education (at the time, YSD scholarships were among the most coveted and sought after) were added the environment, community and health, sports and arts and culture.
Naturally, a pillar close to Tunku Imran’s heart is sport and he remembers with great amusement and fondness the Midnight Football initiative he was invited to attend in Sarawak. “We went to a rural area outside of Kuching, and there was a small football academy with a coach teaching the kids how to play! They were kids with discipline issues, but the academy refocused their energies and they became great players. For me, it was exciting because it was through Yayasan, it was related to sports and it affected children. It was a wonderful thing to see,” he says. The program is life changing and putting these often wayward children on the right path – what YSD CEO Dr Yatela Zainal Abidin says is a hugely impactful program in this part of the country.
Ah, there’s that word again. “That’s what we really want to make a difference,” adds Tunku Imran thoughtfully. “We recognize the impact of human actions on the community and the environment. Driven by this factor alone, we hope to carry the vision of our founders, lead and make a lasting impact and difference in the lives of others. This is especially the case today, when the world is plagued by crises such as climate change, disease, poverty and hunger.
“Between the three companies, we contribute RM80 million a year to the foundation. It’s a pretty big amount of money,” says Jeffri, who takes a particular interest in the environmental work that YSD has done over the years. “I am personally very proud of what we have accomplished with the Menraq patrol teams at Royal Belum State Park. The term menraq means “people” in the Jahai language used by the Orang Asli community.
“In 2021, together with Perak State Parks Corporation, we have committed RM1.2 million over three years to sponsor two new Menraq Patrol Teams of 10 Orang Asli to protect and augment the rapidly decreasing number of Malayan Tigers in the nature. With this project, we sought not only to conserve wildlife, but also to provide another source of income for the community. With the borders closed for so long, the tiger population has increased, but now that the borders are open and the poachers are returning, there is still work to be done.
While the 80 project partners across the five pillars continue to do exemplary work due to the high standards to which they are held, three that Tunku Imran and Jeffri have noticed are making great strides in researching and executing on their findings are Malaysian Elephant Management and Ecology (MEME), which conducts research and builds capacity to shape elephant and biodiversity conservation policies; the Malaysian AIDS Foundation, which ensures equitable access to lifesaving HIV treatment and prevention; and the UKM-YSD Chair in Sustainability, which provided much-needed sustainability knowledge for climate change education and awareness.
YSD’s evolution is marked most obviously to incorporate all of its pillars instead of just one, and the current leadership is keen to continually have good years of creating impact. “The past two years have been marred by thwarted plans, but the ingenuity, creativity and perseverance of our partners and grantees have inspired us in many ways to do better and continue to break down silos and take joint action. to promote planetary health,” says Tunku. Imran. “What we have also been focusing on lately is making sure all our projects have an impact. To this end, we will evaluate all our projects with managers based on their annual performance and establish clear criteria for improvement. »
Looking ahead, Jeffri says he expects a greater focus on the environment as the health of our planet becomes a major concern. “At YSD, we are very clear about our mission to create a lasting impact, to create a ripple effect that contributes to the development of people’s well-being and socio-economic progress while preserving the environment. The impact we have witnessed over the years on different segments of society and on the environment is what drives us forward. In the years to come, we hope to play a bigger role in funding more research and affirmative action plans to address climate change and its impact.
Our conversation shifts to the role that private foundations like YSD play in filling the gaps that the government cannot. Jeffri uses Royal Belum State Park as an example. “Government can’t do everything, so that’s where we can step in…to provide funding for the rangers. It’s the same in Sabah.
“Foundations like YSD continue to play a vital role in promoting corporate social responsibility,” says Tunku Imran. “Even more so with the global push towards ESG, it is especially important for companies and organizations to have a meaningful impact in the communities in which they operate. To effectively drive a company’s sustainability and create value to society and the environment, the key is to stay relevant by keeping a pulse on common challenges that need to be addressed and working with relevant stakeholders to deliver impactful solutions.Through the five pillars we have set in place is what YSD strives to achieve.
Although Tunku Imran would rather look to the future than reminisce, a look back at YSD’s history reveals some spectacular projects that really put Malaysia on the map. His support for KL’s preeminent theater space, klpac, for example, and Professor Datin Paduka Dr Teo Soo Hwang, a researcher from Sime Darby who now runs Cancer Research Malaysia, one of the world’s top research centers including YSD continue to be a part. . Indeed, for the celebration of YSD’s 40th anniversary on June 17, its partners will present the work they have carried out with the help of the foundation.
Looking to the future, Tunku Imran hopes to increase the impact of everything YSD does, taking into account a rapidly changing world. “Our goal is to keep pace and possibly stay ahead of the times. We are about to embark on an exercise where we will discuss our strategy and look at the new environment, the new technologies, the new Malaysia. is constantly changing – the Malaysia of 1982 is not the Malaysia of today and will not be the Malaysia of 30 years in the future.
Whatever this future may be, YSD intends to play an active role in it. Forty years later, there is still a lot to do.
This article was first published on June 13, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.