Friday, May 24

Technology a game changer in environment sector

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Dr Balakrishnan speaks at the Second Singapore Dialogue on SWR recently.

KUCHING: The use of technology is a powerful game changer in the environment and sustainability sector for its ability to improve the quality of environmental monitoring and lower costs in the long term, says Singapore’s Minister of Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

He said this at the Second Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SWR), organised by Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) in Singapore recently.

He said the use of good branding and marketing would help the sector reduce the information asymmetry between companies and consumers, and support the growing number of consumers wanting to use sustainably sourced and produced products.

The SWR dialogue was attended by over 350 people from the civil service, private sector and non-governmental organisations. It was sponsored by Olam International, Temasek Holdings and City Development Limited.

The SIIA also launched the Haze Tracker (www.HazeTracker.org), a website designed to give concerned citizens easy access to haze-related news, analysis and near real-time data on air quality, thermal hotspots and concession maps.

During the dialogue, key plantation companies and agribusiness traders including Wilmar, Cargill, IndoAgri, Sinar Mas, Asia Pulp and Paper, Apical and Bunge shared report cards on their sustainability progress.

The dialogue also saw keen participation from the banking and finance sector. More firms are recognising the opportunities in sustainable financing and the need to assess their clients’ environmental and governance records to protect themselves from reputational damage.

Meanwhile, Cargill Tropical Palm Holdings Pte Ltd (Cargill) chief executive officer John Hartmann told The Borneo Post on the sidelines of the seminar that his company had been producing high quality sustainably produced crude palm oil, palm kernel and palm kernel oil grown on their own plantations and sourced from local Indonesian smallholders.

“Our plantations are based in Indonesia – PT Hindoli in South Sumatra, our first investment in Indonesia oil palm plantations made in 1996, PT Harapan Sawit Lestari and PT Indo Sawit Kekal in West Kalimantan, acquired in 2005, and Poliplant comprising five contiguous plantations acquired in 2014.

“Together, our plantations cover 80,000 hectares of company-owned planted land; providing employment close to 18,000 people,” he said.

Cargill also works with more than 21,000 smallholder farmers in the production of sustainable crude palm oil. Cargill supports efforts to help these smallholder farmers adopt sustainable agricultural practices, improve land use, increase the quality and quantity of their crops, and promote safe and efficient working practices.

He said in 2013, smallholders from their PT Hindoli plantation earned close to triple the national average of Indonesia’s income.

Hartmann added that as a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) formed in 2004, Cargill was an active supporter of sustainable palm oil. PT Hindoli, PT Harapan Sawit Lestari and PT Indo Sawit Kekal were certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). PT Harapan Sawit Lestari and PT Hindoli were also certified by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), and PT Hindoli was, additionally, Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certified.

“As a palm oil company, we strongly believe in supporting the local communities around our plantations in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan. We have built and are supporting 21 schools, which provide free education to 2,800 children and employ 130 teachers,” he said.

Hartmann added that in 2014 and 2013, Cargill received the ‘Mitra Bakti Husada’ (Dedicated Health Partner Award) by the Indonesian Ministry of Health for its implementation of comprehensive healthcare programmes, including maternal healthcare and nutrition initiatives for employees and the local communities around PT Harapan Sawit Lestari and PT Hindoli plantations.

“The government of West Kalimantan awarded us ‘Best Investor’ in 2012. We were named ‘Best Plantation Business Partner 2011’ by the South Sumatran government, and we received the ‘Platinum Indonesia CSR 2011 Award’ – the highest honour for our commitment and efforts in advancing economic development within the country’s agriculture and agro-industry sector,” added Hartmann.

Cargill has two refineries in Peninsular Malaysia but it has no business plan to expand to Sarawak.