SMEs need to address the environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspect in their business models if they want to be relevant in international trade, according to Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade).

Matrade CEO Mohd Mustafa Abdul Aziz said globally, governments are setting up ambitious targets on the ongoing climate crisis and Malaysia is also committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“As the trade promotion agency, we had already embarked on the sustainability agenda back in 2018. We have a programme called Sustainability Action Values for Exporters to ensure Malaysian exporters are able to continue exporting their products and services to traditional markets and new markets that need the ESG values to be taken seriously,” he said during the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) #iEmPOWER webinar held virtually on Tuesday.

The webinar, titled “Global Trade Outlook 2022 and Beyond”, was organised by WIEF Foundation through its WIEF Businesswomen Network.

On global trade, Mohd Mustafa said globalisation needs to be reset to make it equitable, so that entrepreneurs and the SMEs could participate in the global supply chain post-pandemic.

“To do so, we have to look in the areas of sustainability and digitalisation. You must find other options in terms of continuity and in doing so, I think the business community has to really look at digitalisation,” he added.

Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (Eria) lead advisor for Southeast Asia region Dr Lili Yan Ing said Asean should optimise bilateral and regional agreements and cooperation such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to ensure they were being well implemented.

“Asean should ensure the RCEP is well implemented to ensure smooth supply chain in the region and the movement of goods, as well as services and capital,” she said, adding that Asean should also keep its neutral stance between the United States and China, while also engaging middle powers.

Lili noted that the region should also diversify its import sources, export destinations and explore non-traditional markets.

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