Editor's Note: This article first appeared on NUS Giving. Reprinted with permission. Ms Belinda Tanoto strongly believes in spending a lot of time with stakeholders on the ground to discover...
To commemorate National Teacher’s Day in November 2018, palm oil producer Asian Agri, via its business unit PT Supra Matra Abadi (PT SMA), built a clean water tower for a public junior high school in Bila Hulu, South Labuhanbatu Regency, North Sumatra. This development was warmly received by the community.
A Water Tower for the Community
The new water tower will raise health and sanitation standards in the school, benefitting 1,006 students and 44 staff. The school had previously no clean water storage facility, instead relying on a generator-powered machine attached to a rainwater storage tank – neither a time nor cost-effective process according to the school’s principal.
The provision of the water tower facility was lauded by Bila Hulu sub-district head Hamdi Erazona Siregar, who welcomed greater collaboration between Asian Agri and the community. Hamdi expressed hope that Asian Agri would continue to work with the community, understand its needs, and build corporate social responsibility programmes that would help the community prosper.
A Tradition of Driving Positive Social and Economic Impact
Like other RGE companies, Asian Agri has a long tradition of creating positive social and community-level impact to accompany the economic development in its operation areas. Having from the onset embraced the concept of sustainable development, the company established itself as one of the pioneer companies to partner palm oil smallholders under the state-initiated Plasma scheme. The 30-year partnership has seen its smallholders enjoy improved incomes and livelihoods. Its RSPO-aligned palm oil cultivation and agronomic training expertise was also sought and engaged for the recent Oil Palm Course for Peace initiative in Jambi.
In addition to developing and raising its partnered smallholders’ agronomic standards, Asian Agri continues to enrich the communities with programmes supporting infrastructure development, enterprise development, and education. These all contribute to building self-sufficiency within the communities, while empowering and equipping the next generations to be resilient.
Adopting a holistic view of sustainable development accompanied by a consultative and collaborative approach to implementation, Asian Agri has developed initiatives aimed at driving positive social and economic impact and addressing the concerns of the communities. The company has a community relations unit that regularly surveys the ground to understand the community’s needs, which in turn will underpin the community and infrastructure development projects.
The water tower facility is just one of many community and school infrastructural projects undertaken by Asian Agri in its operation areas. Such projects are focused on continuously supporting education quality and access, and have included the building and renovation of school amenities such as libraries, classrooms, and health and medical facilities.
Driving Sustainable Development
Together with other RGE companies, Asian Agri is using the United Nations Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework to better deliver outcomes aligned with the existing 5Cs vision of the group – to create value for the community, country, climate, customer and company. Because the SDG framework is seen as a language commonly understood by many stakeholders, this more readily facilitates collaboration across sectors towards a common objective.
For example, building a water tower for the junior high school in Bila Hulu is a significant contribution to Goal 4: Quality Education. Apart from targets on parity, equitable access and literacy markers, Goal 4 targets include developing the infrastructure for safe and effective learning environments as required by the community.
In providing the water tower as a sanitation facility, Asian Agri can play a contributory role in supporting inclusive and equitable quality education, and more importantly meet the community’s demands for clean water facilities.
As Asian Agri strives to realise the 5Cs vision through the creation of impactful, measurable and scalable outcomes via the SDGs framework, it is also hoped that these efforts can inspire others to do the same.