Charting A New Course

One of Malaysia’s most committed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) proponents is the EMKAY Group, a well-established property developer in Malaysia, founded and led by the charismatic and dynamic Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, or more fondly known as MK. In this issue, CSR Malaysia speaks with MK about social responsibility, his non-profit initiatives and the importance of education in advancing social agendas.

Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal (MK) first displayed his CSR inclination when he was with the government service as Assistant District Officer in Kuala Langat District. He helped execute an ambitious Health Ministry programme called the Applied Food and Nutrition Project (AFNP). AFNP’s aim was to improve the nutrition and health of the rural population as well as to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates. Kuala Langat was the test bed for AFNP and MK implemented a well-thought out and comprehensive execution plan that resulted in AFNP’s unmitigated success.

When MK left the government service and founded his own business, the first major project for MK Land, an EMKAY Group subsidiary, was a new township in Sungai Buluh in the 1980s. He continued his CSR streak in that development when MK Land built 11,000 affordable houses that were most sold for only RM25,000 per unit. At that time, selling any property for that kind of pricing was unheard of, especially for housing with quality workmanship and building materials. In that project, MK was more concerned about making housing really affordable for people to own than turning in a huge profit for the company. When that project, through “cross subsidisation” strategy, became a run-away success, he felt vindicated that undertaking business not purely for the profit motive is viable in the long term.

Through the years, as MK and his business prospered, CSR activities become an integral and ongoing part of his occupation. MK had formed the EMKAY Foundation in 2001, through which CSR and charitable projects can be consolidated and channelled more efficiently and effectively.  Some programmes the foundation has undertaken include social development projects for the native population at the Belum Temengor Forest Reserve, such as the continuous health and nutrition improvement efforts for them, the scientific expeditions into the forest reserve, the toys library for the native kids, and courses on jungle emergency situations for forest rangers.

MK’s many activities for the benefit and welfare of the community and environment have not only gone beyond CSR but have become more philanthropically in nature. In 1984, he started EMKAY Institute, a not-for-profit tuition center targeted at children between the ages of nine and seventeen from the low income families.  Then in 2006, MK established the Bukit Merah Laketown Institute of Allied Health Sciences (BMLIAHS) which focused on students with average academic results, particularly those from Northern Malaysia. MK feared that these poor or average students who are neglected by Malaysia’s grade-obsessed school system will become society’s outcasts, or will be involved with undesirable elements. 

Many of MK’s philanthropist efforts are in the education realm because he worries about the education levels of the lower income group and the indigenous Orang Asli.  The formation by MK of the Green Ranger Malaysia society is another programme along the education vein.  The Green Ranger is an approved co-curriculum activity in school and is meant to impart knowledge of the environment to the young at an early stage in life and inculcate in them a love for nature as well.

In 1996 he even initiated an educational programme by adopting a rural village (Kampong Selamat) in the Kerian district of Perak, and provided tutorial classes for the primary school children. Today, many of those students have graduated and some have gone overseas for further studies.

In Cyberjaya, through Setia Haruman, MK initiated yet another educational programme – the Industry Academia Collaboration (the Cyberjaya Graduate Employability Enabler programme) for the unemployed graduates. This specific programme is not only about upgrading their skills but aligning those skills to the needs of the multinational companies operating in Cyberjaya. These programmes have achieved a run-away success with 95% of the participants employed in the likes of HSBC, Shell, IBM and AIA.

MK's biggest philanthropist programme is the preservation of the Belum Temengor Rainforest. He became involved with Belum when the State Government of Perak sought his help to develop Pulau Banding, one of 88 islands created when the Belum Temengor Valley was flooded to form the Temengor Lake for the generation of electricity through hydro power from the dam built there.  The lake is located at the border of Perak and Kelantan.

Pulau Banding is located within the Belum Temengor forest, which is about 300,000 hectares in size and is the oldest rainforest in the world.  This forest has been evolving for a period of 130 million years and is undisturbed by man.  The area is a Class 1 Environmentally Sensitive Area due to its high significance as a biodiversity hub.  Belum has some of the rarest wildlife, fauna and flora in the world.

Before any development is carried on the island, MK must ensure that such developments blend in with the surrounding forest. To establish this, he had called up a panel of experts from various disciplines of science, the environment and other civil society members including the NGOs to determine what can and cannot be done on the island for its development. Out of this meeting, the Pulau Banding Charter was drafted and became the guideline for all the development on the island.

Included in the Charter is a clause for the establishment of a research centre to be built on the island (which has been constructed) that will focus on carrying out research on the forest to document the biodiversity and develop conservation strategies for the protection of the endangered flora and fauna. This research would be carried out by the Pulau Banding Foundation in collaboration with various public and private universities and research organisations.