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College of Law collaborates on ESG training in Malaysia

The College of Law has teamed up with Austrade to offer a new legal training program in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as global investment becomes increasingly geared towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) policy.

user iconLauren Croft 17 March 2023 Big Law
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Working closely with government and industry in the ASEAN region, the College of Law’s new training program will assist ASEAN nations as they look to meet their transboundary obligations and work towards a more sustainable future.

As such, and in conjunction with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), the College has created a tailored ESG training program for the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturing Institute (FMM Institute).

A subsidiary of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, the FMM Institute will seek to enhance national compliance with ESG principles. While there is no specific codification of ESG principles in Malaysian legislation, compliance with certain ESG principles is seen to be required by pieces of regulation outlined by Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad (BMSB).


BMSB published amendments in September 2022 aimed at enhancing sustainability practices by increasing reporting requirements — something which Austrade business development manager, education, Srii Gunaseelan said was important for Malaysian law firms and other organisations to be across.

“Awareness of the importance of ESG compliance and integration in Malaysia’s business community is growing with the 12th Malaysia Plan highlighting the country’s ambition to advance sustainability and commitment to achieving carbon-neutral status by 2050,” she said.  

“There is a need to raise awareness of the risk of adverse legal and reputational consequences against companies that fail to uphold ESG standards. Building upon the long-established Australia-Malaysian education ties, high-quality training can help prepare local business communities to manage increased business complexity and future investor expectations.”

Existing Malaysian legislation alludes to ESG elements — and while there are no specific legal requirements for private companies and limited recourse placed upon publicly listed companies, there are a number of reasons ESG compliance is important for the Malaysian manufacturing industry. These include attracting and fostering international investment, reducing investor risk and implementing practice for long-term sustainability, according to College of Law director of international relations and development James Jung.

“There have been specific examples of major manufacturing contracts being lost due to ESG compliance issues,” he said.  

“This includes ATA losing their Dyson contract because of allegations of forced labour. Dyson made up 80 per cent of their revenue, the termination of the contract was issued in November 2021 and ATA’s share price tumbled by 84 per cent in one month.

“A similar situation unfolded for Top Glove, the world’s largest glove manufacturer. In March 2021, findings of forced labour led to a US ban on imports.”

The College and FMMI will formalise the relationship between the two organisations in April 2023 to explore, plan and execute activities in relation to skills training and talent development for the current and future workforce in Malaysia. A large part of the skills training will incorporate ESG topics that relate to the Malaysian manufacturing sector.

And as ESG becomes a key issue in boardrooms — and as the commercial, social and environmental implications of not addressing ESG-related issues grow — a number of ASEAN countries are now working with the College of Law in order to learn more about ESG policy and implementing it.

Another major ASEAN ESG training program was created for the senior legal team at Vietnam Electricity (EVN) and its subsidiaries. EVN is state-owned and is the second-largest corporation in Vietnam; it is the sole provider of electricity to over 100 million people, with a turnover of US$16 billion annually.

“The College’s program broadened mine and my team’s understanding of ESG integration and SDG implementation in relation to the renewal energy sector,” Mr Nguyen Minh Khoa, general counsel at EVN, explained.

“As the curriculum continues to evolve, the examples become more and more topical. The real-life cases were very interesting and explain how, with this additional information, issues could have been avoided. The College’s program offers important insights into ESG policy and the role it plays in the professional world.”

The College’s work in the ESG space with a focus on the ASEAN region began in July 2022 with a joint workshop on ESG Law and Practice with the Asian Development Bank, Asian Research Institute for Environmental Law, and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) at the College HQ in Sydney. This was a hybrid event and attracted more than 400 local and international attendees.

The College has also developed, and currently offers, an e-learning course: Developments in ESG for Legal Practitioners, designed for the members of the Law Society of Singapore. In addition to this, the College recently delivered a course ESG in Legal Practice as part of the Law Society of Singapore’s Legal Practice Management course, where it trained over 200 Singaporean lawyers, added chief commercial officer at the College of Law, Angie Zandstra.

“Since the inception of the College of Law Asia in 2016, the College has provided countless international training programs working with international law associations, local bar associations, global law firms, universities, government and legal professionals,” she said.  

“In recent years, the College recognised ESG was becoming an important worldwide topic, but there appeared to be knowledge gaps and lack of clarity around core sustainability issues in the legal profession.

“The College believes ESG training for legal professionals is vital in providing critical understanding of the relevant environmental, social, and governance issues impacting businesses, thus helping lawyers to better advise their clients.”