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By Carolyn Lim

As 2020 draws to a close, we recognize how it has been a rough, historic, and transformative year of quarantine and working from home.

Things will continue to look different through 2021, opening our eyes to question the “norm” and forge a paradigm shift towards re-examining systemic inequalities and the approaches to counter them.

1. We question what does it mean for a decent living for independent smallholders
For the independent smallholders who work in our supply chains, we often ask ourselves and smallholders what it takes for a decent rural living? Is it the realization of how to cultivate the perfect oil palm for a sustainable income? Or is it the joy that the smallholder feels when he or she has saved enough for the pilgrimage to Mecca? Or is it the feeling of being connected to something bigger than themselves or the family, such as leading a farmers association, after years of being a housewife?

Designing a smallholders program is so much more than the basic agronomy exercise when we first started.

Over the next few years, we want to strengthen smallholders’ financial literacy and empower them as small business owners. We want to improve their knowledge and access to sustainable and healthy diets such that smallholders and their families can prevent non-communicable diseases and reduce rural mortality rates. Most importantly, we want to build communities that would ensure lasting and sustainable changes.

Our Smallholders Hubs’ development in Aceh Tamiang and Aceh Singkil will subsequently articulate our vision of rural living.

2. We fine-tuned our approach to eliminating deforestation
We answered the call for action to eliminate deforestation from our supply chain and announced our roadmap to a responsible supply base in the early part of the year. We also learned that the landscape approach is the best way to combine the myriad experiences, dynamics of the supply chain and tackle deforestation’s multidimensional characteristics.

In September 2020, we renewed our commitment to No Deforestation with the launch of our new five-year Sustainability Policy. We enshrined the landscape approach as the mainstay to implement our commitment, with a vision of thriving rural livelihoods, long-term partnership with supplying mills, and environmental protection for the landscape.

Our improvement in the sustainability ratings, such as ZSL SPOTT and Green Cats 2020 Update, is testimony to our transparency in reporting on our progress.

3. We backed up organizations to help communities cope with COVID-19
As with the global corporate community, we join the other businesses in Singapore to help those affected by the pandemic, such as lower-income families, Alzheimer’s Disease patients, and youth struggling with mental wellness. In June, we pledged SGD 5 million (USD 3.7 million) to the local non-profits in Singapore.

While most charities serve as a band-aid to the exacerbated problems from COVID-19, we also invested in developing innovative models of care and research to benefit healthcare workers and patients. The Singapore General Hospital would conduct this research.

A thank-you note from the President Halimah Yacob of Singapore has summed up quite nicely that the wider community has inspired us to give to the less fortunate and rally on the spirit of big hearts in the Lion City.

In Indonesia, we donated over USD 2 million worth of soap and items to improve local sanitation levels and to local charities. We also helped improve communities’ food security by working with locals to grow fish and vegetables for their consumption. More here.

We will continue to discover new possibilities by doing, trying new activities, listening, and building new networks. We strive to grow, evolve, and blossom and learn new things, making our purposeful and sustainable contribution to a better 2021.