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It takes a village to build a sustainable company

Posted: Jul 29, 2016 3 minute read Karen Teh 571 views

It’s hard to believe that seven weeks have flown by since we launched our World Environment Day Internal Campaign. As part of the organising committee for the campaign in our Singapore office, I can honestly say that I have learnt a great deal when it comes to inspiring change at the work place (and at home). I realised that it takes a “village” to build a sustainable company.

It began a couple of months ago when my VP, Anita Neville, asked me what we could do to raise awareness on sustainability issues amongst our colleagues in Singapore. Often here in Singapore we think of sustainability only as something that is being carried out in our Indonesian operations, and I wanted to do something that would make everyone realise that these issues are closer to home. I was excited about the project as I know GAR takes sustainability seriously and this would be a great opportunity to get more of our colleagues on board.

Bringing sustainability issues closer to home

World Environment Day was the perfect starting point. It is celebrated on 5th June every year to promote positive environmental action. This is also something that GAR strives for in all of our operations. Human Resources and Corporate Communications teamed up to plan, prep and execute various programmes, talks, indoor and outdoor activities, while providing employees with information through documentaries, e-flyers and LinkedIn on how one can adopt more sustainable practices at work and at home. The campaign was also a great platform to introduce the GAR Social and Environmental Policy (GSEP), GAR’s roadmap towards sustainability to our colleagues in Singapore.

The Food Waste Workshop – our most popular lunch time workshop/talk series
The Food Waste Workshop – our most popular lunch time workshop/talk series

The organising committee put a lot of thought into the daily activities and weekly highlights for the Singapore office. This pilot campaign was one of the largest scale employee engagements carried out in the Singapore office and the response was enlightening.

We did achieve one of our goals which was to increase awareness and understanding of the GSEP. A final survey at the end of the campaign showed a better comprehension of the GSEP compared to the beginning of the campaign with more than 80 percent of the respondents scoring above seven out of the 10 questions on the company’s sustainability policy.

On the other hand, from the overall response and low turnout at some of the activities, we also learnt that engaging employees is tough. Perhaps this comes from a feeling that sustainability issues have little to do with us here in Singapore. Yet last year, we were all affected by the worst haze in 20 years and many of us were certainly concerned then. As employees we can take pride in the fact that GAR has had a strict Zero Burning Policy since 1997 (the first Indonesian palm oil grower to adopt such a policy). This means that we absolutely do not use fire in any land clearing. We have also been at the forefront of leading the industry when it comes to delinking deforestation from palm oil production. These are some of the useful and important facts to have at our fingertips should we be asked if our company is burning forests in Indonesia.

The HortPark Walk – one of our outdoor activities
The HortPark Walk – one of our outdoor activities

Walking the talk

I believe sustainability can slowly but surely be embedded into our company’s culture. Beyond this campaign, to incorporate sustainability into our daily routine, GAR is establishing a Staff Sustainability Committee (SSC) in the Singapore office.

May Ng, System Enhancement receiving a gift from Hemant Bhatt, DS CEO. Her handmade-paper craft was voted one of the best by employees –
May Ng, System Enhancement receiving a gift from Hemant Bhatt, DS CEO. Her handmade-paper craft was voted one of the best by employees – “Dancing Teapot”. She also received a Certificate of Excellence for the GSEP Introduction Assessment

There’s a lot of room to grow and a lot of work to be done. The message was clear during the final townhall meeting that our employees want to work at a place where they can thrive, contribute and be proud of. By getting involved in the changes you want to see, we can build a strong culture that is aligned with GAR’s commitment to sustainability. Let’s be part of the solution. After all, it takes a village to build a sustainable company.

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