By committing over 4,500 volunteer hours, this team has removed close to 4.5 tons of trash that pollutes beaches; a case study on how HR can play a bigger role in society, featuring Anjum Momina Ghaffar, CHRO, American Express Malaysia.

Q Tell us about your experiences in CSR, and some of the achievements you’ve had over the last couple of years.

Over the last two years, America Express Malaysia has focused our CSR efforts around the preservation of our marine ecosystem and are committed to supporting this initiative on a sustainable basis.

Our mission has taken us to various parts of the country. At every location that we have visited, we have endeavoured to leave behind a cleaner beach, a cleaner reef, saving an endangered species, and created an underwater habitat for future preservation of marine life.

With our understanding of the importance mangroves play in protecting coastal areas, we have also started restoration projects in Kuala Selangor and Melaka. We travelled to the islands of Perhentian to help restore coral reefs through the building and placement of artificial reef blocks consisting of bottle reef blocks, coral pyramids and nurseries and will is the beginning of many conservation drives around these islands.

Protecting marine life is one of our key focus areas and on this front, we have undertaken initiatives in Cherating to clean up turtle nesting beaches and support turtle population conservation.

By committing over 4,500 volunteer hours over the course of two years, we have removed close to 4.5 tons of trash and other materials that pollute these beaches, planted more than 650 mangrove trees, released close to 400 turtle hatchlings and built an artificial reef that will continue to grow.

These community initiatives were driven by our passionate and committed colleagues of American Express Malaysia in partnership with local NGOs with the intention of making a difference for us and our future generations.

Q How do you, as head of HR, find yourself involved in the CSR unit, and what skills and capabilities have you developed to take on this task?

Community service is something that I am passionate about. Personally I have been involved in volunteer activities since childhood – working with special needs children, caring for the elderly, those in need and animals. These are some of the areas I have focussed on for most part of my life outside of American Express and I am honoured to lead a highly passionate team committed to ocean conservation.

I can say that I am an environmental enthusiast who likes to stay close to what’s happening on the ground, support at the leadership level, allocate time to help the team overcome roadblocks, influencing key stakeholders, be an ambassador to peers, and the Country Executive Team in the country.

Q In building momentum to CSR, as in your case, a lot of employee participation was needed. How do you get stakeholders to buy-in to the cause, and thus free up employee bandwidth for these causes?

Leveraging our colleagues’ passion and commitment is a key to our CSR approach.

Throughout the year, employees can participate in a wide range of volunteer activities at company-sponsored projects that meet community needs and environmental restoration. We identify causes that our teams are connected to and that are in line with American Express’ sustainability efforts globally which are on ocean preservation and care for our marine ecosystems.

Q What are some of the other internal challenges you have overcome, and how, in your journey?

Our journey has been an exciting one. We wanted to create a programme that was sustainable, not just making a one-off donation to charities. We constantly remind ourselves about our impact on society and the environment. It is not about showcasing what we have done in reports. We genuine care and have the passion for the cause.

Working with internal teams and external partners, and NGOs have allowed us to learn and improve ourselves. Our programme is not perfect, but over the past two years we have learnt how to execute these initiatives with far more precision and impact.

Q Finally, what is your advice for other organisations that want to invest time and resources in giving back to the society?

Sustainability is key. Pick a cause and champion it over the long term. Plan well, collaborate with NGOs and other parties that bring expertise to get the most out of your efforts.