It’s that time of the year again when I heave a sigh of relief as the Sustainability Report (SR) is put to bed and published. Normally, the SR contains a plethora of data and updates on our sustainability commitments. However, this year I want to highlight some very special contributions from our staff.
The SR2020 contains a special feature entitled “Nature in the Palm Oil Industry”. It showcases a selection of photos taken by staff members in the plantations, the communities, conservation areas, plants, and offices. These photos were submitted as entries in a competition held last year for the company’s employees across all operations.
As editor of the SR2020, I worked with Karen Teh, Head of Branding & Production at Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), and our external design team to put together the feature. One thing that struck me as I looked through the 800-odd photos that made the shortlist, was how our staff had managed to capture the beautiful and diverse flora and fauna that exist in and alongside plantation areas.
“We came up with the idea to hold the photo competition as a way to engage employees in a fun, light-hearted way especially given the craziness of the global pandemic. The response was overwhelming and we were inundated with hundreds of photos. The photos give us a unique view of our company and what it’s doing on the ground through the eyes of its employees,” said Karen.
Employees who monitor conservation areas photographed many interesting and striking images of colourful frogs, butterflies, birds, snakes and insects, flowers, and other plants (aside from oil palms). Some of these have been included in the feature. To me, this is evidence that despite the knee-jerk bad rap that palm oil plantations get for the wholesale destruction of habitats and ecosystems, preserving biodiversity and conserving forests is possible and is happening on the ground.
Successful forest and biodiversity conservation
This is backed up by our most recent data. Currently, GAR is both directly involved and indirectly encouraging the protection of over 220,000 hectares of conservation areas. This includes High Carbon Stock (HCS) and High Conservation Value (HCV) areas. The areas comprise forests in GAR’s concessions; supplier conservation areas; and areas that communities working together with GAR, have agreed to set aside for conservation. This is a testament to our long-standing commitment to conservation as outlined in the GAR Social and Environmental Policy (GSEP). It is also an indicator of the success of working with partners and collaborators over many years.
In particular, we are proud to report that we have helped many of our suppliers strengthen and formalise their policies on NDPE or No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation. Since we started engaging with suppliers, at least 17 of them have undertaken HCS and HCV assessments which requires them to go that extra mile in terms of resource commitment. This is part of what we term “supply chain transformation” which we are carrying out in tandem with a complete mapping of our supply chain. We achieved 90 percent full Traceability to the Plantation (TTP) for our entire palm supply chain as of end-2020 and 94 percent as of Q1 2021. This includes the registration of over 100,000 smallholders to date in our Ksatria Sawit programme, which aims to accelerate TTP amongst Tier 2 suppliers. All this will allow us to reach out to more suppliers such as smallholders to help them become more responsible, sustainable producers; producers who will also understand and adopt the principle of forest and biodiversity conservation.
The photos featured in the SR2020 show that contrary to widespread belief, palm oil plantations are not monoculture deserts devoid of animals and insects, and other plants. Rather, they show that many species still live on the ground and are being protected thanks to our sustainability commitments ― commitments which we are working hard to spread across our supply chain.
On a final note, I am happy to add that the photo competition is likely to become an annual event due to strong interest and demand from our staff. I look forward to featuring many more interesting images from the field taken by staff who are proud to showcase their work and workplace.
Visit the company’s Instagram account to take a look at all of the photo competition entries.
Lim Shu Ling has worked with GAR since 2015. She oversees the preparation and publication of the company’s annual Sustainability Report. She also handles GAR’s ESG disclosures and reporting on various international platforms including DJSI, FTSE4Good, CDP, Sustainalytics, SPOTT and others. She works closely with Investor Relations and Finance in briefing financial stakeholders on GAR’s ESG performance.