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Selangor Bar Committee Talk – The New Frontier: Demystifying ESG for Future Legal Leaders

Monday, 29 January 2024

Jia Yaw was invited back to the Selangor Bar to give a talk on the topic of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG). He presented on how lawyers should navigate the ESG landscape and why it is important to proactively do so.

Jia Yaw started his presentation with a quick introduction on the concept of ESG and ESG developments seen in Malaysia in recent years. He highlighted how there is no legal definition of ESG, as if it is a singular development. After explaining the origins of the phrase, Jia Yaw suggests that to effectively and meaningfully develop one's perspective of ESG, we should think of ESG as a spectrum of stakeholder expectations instead of a black and white end goal.

This perspective fits into a more collaborative approach that goes beyond mere compliance of hard and soft laws. Jia Yaw recommends that lawyers use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as the North Star as they develop ESG-related themes into their respective practice areas. For example, SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) is especially important and relevant to the legal profession.

Jia Yaw shared that the exponential growth of ESG requirements has impacted legal practice in terms of having new client needs and expectations. The writing is on the wall that ESG-orientated businesses will emerge more competitive. For instance, they will increasingly have an edge accessing markets and investment, as well as perform better in attracting and retaining talent (especially for the younger and more socially conscious generation). Thus, he encourages lawyers to take leadership in this paradigm shift, not only for the sake of their own legal practice, but to become powerful enablers (and not obsolete obstacles) who can support their clients' journey in transforming their businesses.

About 40 lawyers ranging from pupils-in-chamber to senior practitioners attended the talk held at the Selangor Bar auditorium.

Ambiga Rajendran, Co-Chairperson of the Selangor Bar Human Rights, Environment & Gender Equality Sub-Committee presenting a token of appreciation to Jia Yaw.


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