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By Carolyn Lim

Two years ago, we started preparing for our sustainability report. However, the internal inertia, given the workload of the verification for the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), makes it very hard for our operational colleagues to focus on reporting. As the deadline drew near, our Executive Chairman, who is the owner of the company, rounded up everyone senior who is responsible for the data in the report and said: “by hook or by crook, finish the report.”

What took us two years to start – with a long intermission – we took two weeks to finish. We finally managed to publish our first sustainability report, in time for the annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Roundtable meeting on 12 November 2018 – the biggest event in the calendar for sustainable Palm Oil .

Having worked for an owner-run company, we know a thing or two about tackling challenges internally. Profiling ownership externally is also the best way forward.

Today we know that we have between 500 to 600 mills, which translate into roughly 224 supplier groups.

For the last few years, when the industry trend was about traceability to the Plantation with the refinery as a starting point, we urged others to adopt a different approach: the ownership or group level approach.

What’s the difference? The refinery-based approach calls for workshops for mill managers from different supplier groups, while the group supplier approach calls for workshops for mill managers in the same supplier group. We find that people are more willing to speak up publicly on issues when they are from the same company.

The refinery-based approach meant that companies were busy prioritising mills in high-risk areas, while we were prioritising our efforts on supplier groups, owners who are willing to listen to us and join the sustainability bandwagon. We call this the good supplier approach; whether you are in high risk or low-risk areas, as long as you are willing to listen and engage in the sustainability action, we want more oil from you.

We found a mill owner who studied in Germany during his college days and is keen to use certification as a management tool so that he can manage less. This is a concept that resonates with our Chairman too.

We spoke to an owner who owns independent mills across Sumatra, and he brought his son along to our meetings because he knows that he is in this business for the long haul, and that sustainability is going to redefine the business environment.

Most importantly, we are looking out for good supplier groups who are able and willing to work with us, in the landscapes that we see as critical to sustainable Palm Oil .

To everyone who is tackling the big question of NDPE implementation every day: Do you know the owners of the mills that are in your supply base? Can you identify stories that are similar to ours? Could you identify good suppliers under your charge and encourage them to join the sustainability bandwagon? Perhaps together, we can change the discourse around NDPE , working towards 2020.