Infusing Sustainability
with Writing​

Copyright © 2020 Gamuda Berhad

by Sheena Wong

Gamuda’s English Language Unit (ELU) and the Group Corporate Communications and Sustainability Department (GCCS) collaborated in organising the second annual English Writing Contest, themed ‘Sustainability, the Savvy Way’.

The contest was launched on the English Language Day and the World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April 2020.

It ran over a month and received a good mix of entries across the Group’s departments and projects, as sustainability is an overarching subject that applies to all.

Incorporating ‘Sustainability’ as a common theme stemmed from a coffee discussion between the ELU Head, Dr Ho Sook Wah and GCCS General Manager and Chief Sustainability Officer, Ong Jee Lian.

The collaboration was to kill two birds with one stone.

The ELU wanted to provide an avenue for Gamudians to write in English on a theme important to the Group, while GCCS wished to weave the interest of sustainability among staff members.

Ultimately, the contest hoped to seek feasible ideas for Gamudians to walk the talk on sustainability at a personal and professional level.

A panel of seven judges, including Dr Ho and Jee Lian, was mindfully selected to represent all sides of the business.

Copyright © 2020 Gamuda Berhad

The judges reviewed the entries for eventual implementation; hence, clearly articulated ideas are the key to writing for the judges to understand the proposed ideas and weigh the practicality to operationalise them.

In the process, the judges found sound suggestions to integrate sustainability, especially in construction operation, procurement processes and utilities usage habits.

Sustainability is certainly a mindset change. This is the common notion that Jee Lian gathered from all the submissions.

“It is heartening to see the writers understood the fundamentals of sustainability, and how the pandemic situation opened their eyes to the fact that the planet lies in balance with profit and people,” she said.

Many of the contest writers highlighted the importance of mindset change in personal habits and work processes, and practising ‘integrity’ to do what is right even when no one is looking.

“These reflect the ESG (environment, social and governance) fundamentals, which the writers understood. Many highlighted that it’s necessary to lead a change in the built environment and use fewer natural resources,” added Jee Lian.

Some of the submissions advocated implementing sustainable practices and using technologies to streamline business operations. Regulation compliance would help to kick start the process.

The actionable ideas will be explored for implementation, such as the use of chatbot algorithm for document control process, dashboard that displays utility usage and wastage in monetary value to induce behavioural change among employees.

The judges scored the submissions based on five writing criteria, i.e. content, relevance to theme, coherence and writing structure, language use and succinct communication.

“Generally, all the writers were able to express their ideas, but we found that some would still need to work on communicating with more impact by structuring their ideas more cohesively and coherently,” Dr Ho observed.

She opined that Gamudians should leverage on the writing contest as a platform to hone their writing skills.

The ELU would look at offering writing workshops for aspiring writers.

Gamuda Engineering General Manager, Tan Ek Khai noted many participants brought up the fact that sustainability is about changing human behaviours.

He urged to keep the writing simple and that ‘less is more’ when trying to present their ideas more effectively, which is a crucial skill at work.

Gamuda Parks Chief Operating Officer, Khariza Abdul Khalid stressed that while promoting sustainability is a long journey, writing is a great way to engage people’s interest, especially in the area of biodiversity.

ELU Manager, Pauline Teo, commended on the participants’ efforts as it takes tremendous courage to write for a contest.

She pointed out that it boils down to a lot of reading, researching and understanding of the topic before one could start writing.

Head of Project Information Management, Ronan Collins hoped some of the great ideas could be elaborated upon further. He expected to see a more detailed discussion on the pros and cons of an idea to sum up the written piece comprehensively.

Group Sustainability Manager, Venu Mahendra expressed the need for writing to generate a good first and last impression.

Before any writing commences, the thought process must be in place to ensure logic and consistency throughout the essay, while having a meaningful flow of points.

In summarising the key takeaways from the judges, Dr Ho reiterated the importance of writing to serve a purpose, with the reader in mind.

“In essence, an impactful writing piece should be cohesive, coherent and engaging,” she said.

“Great ideas will just remain as ideas unless they are communicated with impact. Having a good command of English gives us that edge,” she added.