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Asian Ecotourism Network To Be Launched by 2015

Singapore, 21st October 2014- A group of Asian ecotourism leaders gathered to kick off the Asian Ecotourism Network (Ecotourism Asia) in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia in conjunction with the 8th Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference.

At the founding board meeting, the members unanimously agreed to establish the Network sometimes mid-2015 housed in a public organization DASTA (Designated Area for Sustainable Tourism Administration) situated in Bangkok, Thailand.

According to the founding board chair, Masaru Takayama - executive director of Japan Ecolodge Association, the Network will supply more hands-on connections and relevant opportunities for members working together at a regional level providing more networking and business opportunities, significant information, educational materials and networking prospects to both small and large organizations within Asia. The founding member countries comprise of Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, South Korea, Mongolia, India, Laos, Pakistan, Bhutan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Philippines.

For more information, join their Facebook page of Asian Ecotourism Network (Ecotourism Asia) where the latest updates are shared among members until the official launch in 2015. 




Carlson Rezidor Bans Shark Fin

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group today announced that the company has joined the fight in reversing the rapid decline in the shark population and signaling its commitment towards sustainable seafood sourcing.

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Inspiring Tourism Stories Competition 2014

This year, Wild Asia together with Gaia Discovery is on a lookout for inspiring travel stories from within the industry. We are inviting exceptional tourism businesses and projects from across Asia to submit their inspiring story.

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Singapore's Ethical Shopping Hackathon - A World's First

Singaporeans are coming together in support of the first ever hackathon focused on ethical shopping: the Good Living Design Jam.

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Contested Palm Oil Leases Declared Illegal in Papua New Guinea

High court sides with Indigenous communities in battle over controversial Malaysian palm oil giant’s plan to develop large areas of ancestral territory and pristine forest

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Tackling Southeast Asia Haze with Game Rules

Instilling Greater Responsibility Using the Palm Oil Resource Trade Cycle Model as Guide. A Commentary By Mallika Naguran

Singapore 3 March 2014. Singapore is tackling the haze blame game by introducing a penalty card – fine or jail sentence for errant companies that have been found to be directly or indirectly responsible for the fires. The proposed Transboundary Air Pollution Act is intended to mitigate the year-after-year haze issue that enshrouds Singapore, causing immense healthcare, environmental and business related costs.

The Act, punitive in its object, fulfils only one end of the goal keeping. A game can only be played fairly and without dispute if there were clear governing rules in the first place. There exist no such game rules for agricultural-based companies profiteering from stripping forests bare or burning existing plantations to make way for new ones.

Forests are home to at least 70% of all land-based plants and animals, providing essential ecological services for human health, agricultural productivity and climate buffers. Forests help maintain soil fertility, protect watersheds and reduce the risk of natural disasters such as floods and landslides by regulating water supplies and reducing soil erosion.

Protecting such a valuable natural resource should thus be a requirement worked into the business regulations of agriculture-related companies registered in Singapore. Such companies, be they producers, traders or lenders, should demonstrate compliance to an international standard for sustainability with strict environmental protection.

Who’s to Blame

Regulating stricter ethics in capital flow would help in improving deforestation and plantation burning issues. Illustrated by Ivan Nasution.Knowing what rules to apply can only come with the understanding of the kind of players involved and their relationship dynamics.  A resource trade cycle analysis (RETRAC) model developed by Foundation Aidenvironment sheds light on this community and the linkages between the borderless demand, supply, production and consumption of natural resources based products. As haze has been attributed largely to the oil palm sector, a custom model helps identify capital and product flows (represented by arrows in the diagram), plus the policy leverage needed to manage sustainable oil palm trade. 

Policy leverage is important arising from sustainability driving forces such as governmental laws, non-governmental organisation (NGO) activism, EU Renewable Energy Directive (palm oil in biofuel), and intergovernmental organisations e.g. International Finance Corporation. This sphere of influence towards sustainable palm oil production should be extended to key players involved in capital flows (e.g. bankers, investors, stock exchange) as they grease the product flow particularly between traders, plantation owners, palm oil producers and goods manufacturers.

Financial institutions, accountable for providing liquidity in upstream and downstream ventures of agricultural-based trade, can use their leverage to prevent deforestation and forest degradation. Banks can do this with strict engagement and investment policies for the agricultural sector (including forestry) and related trading companies, covering environmental impact, labour rights and human rights. WWF’s Palm Oil Financing Handbook is a good reference for fund, investment and credit risk managers.

Sustainability frameworks that are in place include FSC-certification for forest management and tree plantation operations; FSC Chain of Custody certification for entire wood product and processing chain; and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification. However, RSPO, being a voluntary and non-binding scheme, has revealed loopholes and limitations, and as such must not be accepted as the ultimate green certification.

Clear regulations must exist on not siting investments in protected areas,  High Carbon Stock Forests and areas with High Conservation Value. Along with that, respect the (land) rights of local communities and indigenous peoples is crucial.

Whatever certification is chosen, an initial independent assessment of socio-environmental impacts should be done to include the macro-impacts of new plantations located in regions in existing ones. The Singapore government could request for yearly compliance audit reports. 

The sphere of influence causes ripple effects too. Incredible NGO activism had recently pressured Kelloggs to impose stricter requirements on its suppliers to protect forests and peatlands, and respect community rights. This chain of events has pressured Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader and an RSPO certified member, into tightening up its sustainability policies within its own supply chain as well e.g. oil palm planters and producers in Indonesia. The RETRAC model shows where and how else influence could be applied to put sustainability in action.

Sustainability in Action

A RETRAC study by Greenpeace in Netherlands in 1999 revealed that many plantation company clients of Dutch commercial banks were involved in social and environmental issues in Indonesia. The study also showed that financiers were able to influence their clients’ environmental policies but lacked internal policies to do so. Under NGO pressure in 2002, all Dutch banks signed a simple statement of intent to declare that no financial services would be made available to errant plantation companies that were involved in illegal activities, deforestation, open burning, or social conflicts.

A Friends of the Earth study in 2006, however, found that Dutch banks performed poorly in implementing such policies. Commercial banks then funded BankTrack, an independent NGO, to focus on banks’ compliance with the Equator Principles.

The Singapore government could likewise ensure the set up of a similar NGO, with the financial industry’s support, to enrich the resource database of agri-businesses’ documentation of licenses, land concession maps, supply chain partner lists, sustainability certifications and audits. Guided by RETRAC models based on agri-businesses, this funded NGO could also double up as the Singapore government’s watchdog to provide evidence for prosecution.

Strengthening the sphere of influence with laws is one aspect. It is by governing product and capital flows that can the agri-game be played well, that is, according to the rules.

Illustrated by Ivan Nasution.

An edited version of this article appeared in Today 3 March 2014. Here's the link to it.



Kellogg to Buy Non-deforested Palm Oil From 2016

Kellogg Co. (K) has agreed to buy palm oil only from suppliers who can prove they don’t damage rain forests, the strongest move yet by a public food manufacturer to stop the practice, according an environmental group that pressured the maker of Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies.

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Rainbow Warrior in Bali: Greenpeace Visits the Sacred Isle

Greenpeace’s famous vessel the Rainbow Warrior visited Bali recently to promote the Ocean Defender initiative. It didn’t get much press coverage, but the people that did visit

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Plastic Bags: Singapore Litter Gets Worse

Plastic bags are durable, waterproof, light, flexible, and strong. They are perfect for lugging groceries, as bin liners, even waterproof hats for old men. But they are choking our planet – and only a few governments are doing anything about it.

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Sustainability in Seychelles: Hotel L'Archipel Goes Green

Seychelles is getting serious about sustainability and its hotels are starting to take measures to protect the earth. Hotel L’Archipel on Praslin, after two years of research and planning, has confirmed that they have taken the initiative to “go green” at their property by implementing numerous renewable energy solutions with a positive impact to the environment and in so doing improving guest comfort.

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JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort Gets Green Globe

Green Globe announces certification of the JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over the past few years this luxury resort has demonstrated leadership and innovation in the fields of operational efficiency and globally responsible practices on multiple levels.

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Centara Opts for EarthCheck Sustainability Policy

Thailand - Centara Hotels&Resorts, throughout its 30-year history, has always believed passionately in green and sustainable tourism, a policy that is at the heart of the company and which engages every property in its portfolio.

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Eight Shifts Needed for Sustainability

A new international alliance of research institutes has identified eight major shifts that must take place for humanity to achieve sustainable development. The recommendations come in a paper published today by the Independent Research Forum

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What’s quality of life for Singapore?

What makes for quality of life in Singapore? Should we aspire for wealth or well-being? Mallika Naguran writes about these and proposes some indicators from international benchmarks that can apply to Singapore.

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Urban Poverty: The Problem in the South

With more people than ever before living in cities – and an tidal wave of migration from rural areas, urban poverty is increasing dramatically. The worst places for this new urban problem are all south of the equator – and growing fast.

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The Other Hundred: A Pursuit of Societal Justice 

Media output tells us the world consists successful politicians, businesspeople celebrities and the internet - all with their own “Top 100” lists. The Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIfT) is producing The Other Hundred, a list of what it calls the “incredible yet uncelebrated” who make up the majority of our world.

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Three Issues the G20 Should Discuss: Climate, Decent Work and Mining

At first glance, working conditions in Mexican factories, mining projects and even drought may seem like local issues. But not if we want a world based on justice, gender equality and a respect for human rights. Michael Switow reports from the People's Summit in La Paz, Mexico.

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Communities Protect Vietnam’s Forests: Socio-Economic Benefits Studied

For ten years now, a local community in north central Vietnam has managed a 600+ hectare forest, protecting it from illegal logging and fires. Journey with the Forest Governance Learning Group - which includes development workers, foresters and lawyers united by a desire to improve decision-making in forest policy - as they travel here to gauge the programme's success.

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Third World Land Grabs:Demand for Renewable Energy Drives Trend 

The thirst for bio-energy is leading to a shortage of bio-mass. Will First World countries repeat the colonial exploitation they imposed with mineral mining?

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Google Researches Clean Energy Generation, Reveals Solar Patent

Not content with not being evil, Google wants to be clean too. It has revealed it is to invest in clean energy R&D with the aim of active clean power generation - cheaper than coal.

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