AkzoNobel Partners Ground-Up Initiative's Kampung Kampus 

Long-term collaboration will see the sustainability-focused community campus through to its completion scheduled for 2017 

Close to 400 AkzoNobel staff gathered at Kampung Kampus for sustainability day outSingapore, 7 November 2016. AkzoNobel, a leading global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals, announced today that it will provide sustainable coatings for non-profit social enterprise Ground-Up Initiative’s facilities in a long-term partnership that will see the eco-site through to its completion.

Buildings at Kampung Kampus (former Bottle Tree Park), the organization’s 26,000sqm sustainability-focused campus, will feature eco-products and expertise from AkzoNobel. This includes Ground-Up Initiative’s “Heartquarters” office and training building which is set to be Singapore’s only other net zero energy building, three container classrooms, and other outdoor infrastructure.

AkzoNobel staff planting 51 trees in total as a celebration of Singapore's 51st birthday.“We are delighted to collaborate with Ground-Up Initiative whose cause is in line with AkzoNobel’s global Human Cities initiative, which is to help urban areas adapt to rapid urbanization,” said Mr Ton Büchner, AkzoNobel’s CEO who made the announcement during the company’s Destination Planet Possible staff community program at Kampung Kampus.

“Protecting the facilities in this inspiring environment at Kampung Kampus with our sustainable coatings and expertise complements our Planet Possible philosophy of creating more with fewer resources,” he added.

Netherlands-based Mr Büchner, along with co-host Mr Henry Kwek, MP for Nee Soon GRC, also led close to 400 AkzoNobel staff, family members and business partners in planting 51 trees in celebration of Singapore’s 51st birthday. The group also engaged in various eco-focused activities such as garden herb potting.

Energy-saving coatings

The net zero energy building which houses the “Heartquarters” is endorsed by the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), and has completed phase one of its construction. It is coated with AkzoNobel’s heat-reflective and anti-bacteria coatings that are certified by the Singapore Green Building Product (SGBP) labelling scheme, adding value to the building’s Green Mark Platinum target.

The Dulux Professional Weathershieldcoatings with patented Keep Cool Technology by AkzoNobel, which are used on the exterior of the building, are also Singapore Green Label certified products that can reduce surface temperatures by up to 5°C. This keeps the interiors cool, and leads to significant power savings for air conditioning and fans.

Ton Büchner putting the finishing touches on a sunflower mural in collaboration with local artist.AkzoNobel also collaborated with the local artists at Mural Lingo, an arts, education and publishing platform, to cover three container classrooms at Kampung Kampus in vibrant sunflower murals.

Kampung Kampus, which spans across more than four football fields, is an educational campus dedicated to sustainable living, community building, and nurturing resilient society leaders. It is home to four social initiatives, each with a different purpose:

 - WOW Kampung – a social enterprise for experiential environmental education and character development for students and teachers

- Touchwood – encourages practical craft skills such as carpentry

- Guild – focuses on technological innovations for a sustainable community

- Farmily – which encourages a healthy lifestyle and extra income for the elderly through urban farming

Currently, 65% of Kampung Kampus is now up and running, including the Ground-Up Initiative’s zero energy office building, the making space and an outdoor learning space by the ponds. The site is targeted to be completed by 2017.


For media enquiries, please contact:


AkzoNobel Communications

South East & South Asia, Middle East, Australasia & Africa


Ng Yen Tze

T: +65 9852 6316



Huntington Communications


Mavis Ang / BlessAnn Luah

T: 6339 2883

E: /

Sustainable Luxury in the Heart of Bangkok

Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel has achieved the highest individual score in attaining GOLD Certification to the global sustainability certification standard for travel and tourism, Green Growth 2050. With a score of 86%, Anantara Siam has set the benchmark for all other Hotels to aspire to across all assessment elements including social, cultural, environmental and operational best practice.

In the heart of one of the world’s most enigmatic capital cities, Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel offers discerning travellers a luxurious retreat to enjoy life’s finer pleasures and engage in soulful, original journeys. As ethical tourism continues to grow, certifications such as this allow travellers to feel more confident that they are not only getting their money’s worth, but are leaving behind a better chance for younger generations to enjoy the same liberties.

Anantara Siam attains GOLD certification by Green Growth 2050.“Sustainability is very important to us at the hotel and throughout the brand. We worked hard to comply with the Green Growth standards and we are thrilled with the result of 86%. The work doesn’t stop there, and it is important we maintain these high standards. We’ve already identified other areas to expand our practices, including planting more produce on our fourth floor garden, consumed in our staff canteen,” says General Manager Patrick Both.

In achieving GOLD Certification, Anantara Siam implemented a range of innovative sustainability initiatives including transitioning the hotel to glass water bottles in the rooms and related front of house areas, eliminating the use of PET plastic bottles. The hotel also used reclaimed, treated and filtered water in its air-conditioning cooling towers saving approximately 100 kilolitres of water each day.

“The team at Anantara Siam has worked tirelessly during the last six months to fully embrace the Green Growth 2050 Standard and ensure this outstanding result” said CEO of Green Growth 2050 Wayne McKinnon. “Patrick and his teams took the unique approach of establishing multi-layered ‘Green Teams’ across the organisation and providing them with the tools and responsibility to own all aspects of the process. Taking the teams on field trips to garbage collection centres, recycling companies and environmental programs gave everyone involved a ‘real-life’ view of why areas of the Standard were important and helped to instil a unique sense of engagement.” added McKinnon

Green Growth 2050 is the world’s most comprehensive GSTC recognized sustainability framework for the travel & tourism industry. It was designed and developed to meet the needs of hotels and travel businesses seeking today’s solutions to the issues driving social, cultural and environmental change.

Garden Terrace rooms at Anantara Siam Bangkok exemplify a sustainable oasis in the city.The Green Growth 2050 Global Standard is based on a range of internationally recognised UN Global Compact;

  • The UNEP Green Economy Principles;
  • The Code against the sexual exploitation of children;
  • UNWTO Ethics in Tourism; and
  • The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators

Green Growth 2050 has been selected by the Minor Hotel Group to not only provide certification but also performance measurement, CSR impact analysis and business intelligence dashboard analytics across all aspects of sustainability reporting.


Editor’s Notes:

Anantara is a luxury hospitality brand for modern travellers, connecting them to genuine places, people and stories through personal experiences, and providing heartfelt hospitality in the world’s most exciting destinations. The collection of distinct, thoughtfully designed luxury hotels and resorts provides a window through which to journey into invigorating new territory, curating personal travel experiences.

From cosmopolitan cities to desert sands to lush islands, Anantara connects travellers to the indigenous, grounds them in authentic luxury, and hosts them with passionate expertise, currently boasting over 35 stunning properties located in Thailand, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Mozambique, Zambia, the UAE and Qatar, with a pipeline of future properties across Asia, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Africa.

For more information on Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, please visit

Follow us on Facebook:; Twitter and Instagram: @anantara_hotels

About Global Hotel Alliance:

Founded in 2004, and based on the airline alliance model, Global Hotel Alliance (“GHA”) is today the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands. GHA uses a shared technology platform to drive incremental revenues and create cost savings for its member brands, and operates a multi-brand loyalty programme, DISCOVERY, which has over seven million members. GHA currently includes more than 30 brands, encompassing over 550 upscale and luxury hotels with 110,000 rooms across 76 different countries.

For more information visit

About Green Growth 2050

Green Growth 2050 is a new dynamic product and service set that links sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility in support of Green Growth. It has been developed by, based in the EU and Vision CSR based in Australia. It draws on their multi decade experience as leaders and innovators in creating sustainable travel and tourism frameworks, as well as their extensive partnerships and alliances focused on green economy transformation and climate response.

To learn more, visit


For media enquiries, please contact Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel:  Tel: + 66 (0) 2 126 8866

Monica Majors

Cluster Director of PR – International

Tel: +66 (0) 2 126 8866 ext 1705


Nannadda Supakdhanasombat

Director of Marketing Communications

Tel: +66 (0) 2 126 8866 ext 1720



Conference on Attaining UN SDGs in NUS 9-11 November 2016

Conference on Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals – Environmental Law, Policy and Management will be held in Singapore from 9-11 November 2016 

A high-profile conference with a focus on environmental law, policy and management aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be held for the first time in Singapore 2016.

The three-day conference explores the issues, challenges, solutions and implementation of law, policy, science and management of four specific SDGS: SDG Goal 12 – Sustainable Production and Consumption; Goal 13 – Climate Action; Goal 14 –Life below Water (Sustainable Oceans); and Goal 15 –Life on Land (Biodiversity Conservation). 

The organisers are Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL), NUS Master of Science (Environmental Management) [MEM] and NUS Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES). They have invited prominent speakers who will share their insights on achieving the SDGs.

Conference Details

What: Conference on Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals – Environmental Law, Policy & Management *

When: 9th – 11th November 2016, 8:30am to 6:00pm

Where: Shaw Foundation Alumni House Auditorium
National University of Singapore, 11 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119244


Registration and payment details:


About the Conference

In 2016, the NUS Law School’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL) celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Two degree programs focusing on the environment – the Master of Science in Environmental Management (MEM) and Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) also celebrate their 15th and 5th Anniversaries respectively.

To celebrate, APCEL, MEM and BES are coming together from 9-11 November 2016 to organise this three-day conference as well as the Asia Environment Lecture on 11 November 2016 at 5 pm.

Visit the individual organisers’ webpage:

*Qualified for PDU Points by the Professional Engineers Board (PEB). Refer to Registration Page for details.


Singapore Businesses and Sustainable Development Goals 

Singapore moves towards Sustainable Development Goals with the help of the business fabric.  By Mallika Naguran

Singapore, 23 June 2016. Singapore businesses were urged today to respond to pressing social and environmental issues by heeding the newly minted United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 

At a thought leadership session organised by Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS), a mix of small, medium and large companies listened to sustainability strategies and measures outlined by multinational conglomerate Unilever and Diageo as well as homegrown City Developments Limited (CDL). These ranged from conducting materiality assessments to setting sustainability targets, implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, measuring performance and public reporting. 

Read more here: Singapore Businesses to Embrace Sustainable Development Goals


Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil Formed

Haze, fires, irreparable destruction of forests and peat land, vanishing habitats and species, land grabs and loss of lives… Singapore companies are coming together to deal with social and environmental impacts of palm oil through a new alliance. By Mallika Naguran

Singapore, 27 June 2016.  Five companies have stepped up to the task of leading the way for others to follow or collaborate with through an alliance with the prime objective of preventing deforestation, forest fires, smoke and haze in relation to palm oil production, distribution and consumption.

Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil hopes to put the future of people and habitats in the hands of responsible palm oil players.The Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil was announced today to bring together players in the palm oil industry to derive solutions for the uptake of sustainably produced palm oil. 

The five companies are Unilever, Danone, Ayam Brand, IKEA and Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Year after year since 1972, Southeast Asia has experienced significant transboundary air pollution, commonly referred to as haze, mostly due to slash and burn agricultural method in neighbouring Indonesia and Malaysia.

About two million hectares of forests have been burnt down in Indonesia alone in just five months of 2015, according to Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan).

The public outcry and activism by civic groups in 2015's prolonged haze has prompted the formation of the alliance in Singapore. 

"The alliance sends a clear signal to consumers about which companies are committed to sustainability," said Elaine Tan, chief executive of WWF Singapore. "This is a timely opportunity for non-governmental organisations and businesses to work together towards transforming the palm oil industry."  

Recognising the need for greater inputs outside of the private sector, NGOs and institutes are also invited to become associate members of the alliance, such as local civic society PMHaze and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

The Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil will work towards zero deforestation to protect habitats of wildlife such as the orang utans.While details of who will provide secretariat services for this alliance have yet to be decided, according to Gregory Bardies, corporate relations manager with WWF Singapore, the alliance will seek to promote responsible corporate practices and commitment through B2B programmes such as case studies and reference documents

The other two areas that WWF is looking at is capacity building through the running of workshops and the establishment of working groups.

There would be distinct clusters in the working groups for palm oil growers, traders and processors and palm oil uses. There would be a fourth working group for advocacy and stakeholders.

“This whole thing is a sustainable journey. Companies who have yet to get on this journey can get help by joining the alliance to increase their capacity,” said Bardies.

WWF is also looking into having a “buyers group” to make it easier for the sourcing of sustainable palm oil products in Singapore.

Sustainably produced palm oil through certification labels such as the Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is administered by the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

The RSPO guidelines will be referenced by the alliance in reaching out to Singapore companies.

WWF Singapore hopes to have eight to ten members join the alliance by the end of 2016. 

Keen to know more or join the alliance? Get in touch with the WWF-Singapore Palm Oil Team. Gregory Bardies, and Karen Sim, Tel: +65 6730 8100.

Related articles on Gaia Discovery:

GINKalimantan Conference 2016: Youths Dig Environmental Issues

Kids Cut Palm Oil and So Can You

The Haze, Hazier Deals and the Fiery Blame Game

Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Pathways

Communities Protect Vietnam's Forests

Kellogs to Buy Non-deforested Palm Oil from 2016

Singapore Businesses to Embrace Sustainable Development Goals 


Making SDG Singapore's Business  

Singapore is stepping up to the task of fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals with the help of the business fabric.  By Mallika Naguran

Singapore, 23 June 2016. Singapore businesses were urged today to respond to pressing social and environmental issues by heeding the newly minted United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 

At a thought leadership session organised by Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS), a mix of small, medium and large companies listened to sustainability strategies and measures outlined by multinational conglomerate Unilever and Diageo as well as homegrown City Developments Limited (CDL). These ranged from conducting materiality assessments to setting sustainability targets, implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, measuring performance and public reporting. 

Facilitating the Global Compact Network Singapore session was Junice Yeo of Corporate Citizenship (far left). Panelists were (from left) David Kiu of Unilever; Caroline Whatley of Save the Children; Georgie Passalaris of Diageo; and Esther An of CDL.

Diageo has a tool kit to help with communication of responsible operations down its supply chain, according to its Sustainable Development Manager (Skills & Empowerment), Georgie Passalaris.

The event hosted by Unilever at its premises in Singapore also featured break out sessions, which gave the 80 participants the opportunity to clarify what the SGDs meant and how their companies could align their business operations along with the 17 goals. 

But not all goals need to be met, according to the presenters, at least not right away. “Just choose those that fit into your business operations first and work on them,” said Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer of CDL. The publicly listed property developer has plans in place to address nine SDGs, that includes targeting 35% of building materials to be derived from recycled, low-carbon or certified sources within the next 14 years.

Unilever has, according to David Kiu, VP, Sustainable Business & Communications for Unilever, “identified areas where we can make the biggest contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals given the nature and scale of our operations, and how this will add value to our business.” 

The Singapore Business Case

On 25 September 2015, member countries of the United Nations adopted a set of goals and associated targets to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all” as part of the new agenda for sustainable development. However, governments concede that the private sector and civil society play a critical role in gearing countries to meet the goals and accompanying 169 targets by 2030.

Singapore is no different.  Local and foreign-owned companies based in Singapore have begun to see the benefits of incorporating sustainability into the business mantra. This involves reviewing business operations to minimise waste, energy and resources to help improve the bottom line. Companies have also begun to see positive outcomes from working with various stakeholders to help meet their CSR goals. 

Wilson Ang: Step change needed.Commenting on the need for a larger societal commitment, Wilson Ang, Executive Director of GCNS, said, “Governments that have committed to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals realise it will require a step change in the way that private sector, public sector and civil society work together.”

GCNS plans to help with this transition by reaching out to the diverse industry segments - from real estate, travel to financial services. “The direction going forward is to help companies first understand where they are and assist them in planning towards achieving sustainability through a framework we have,” said Ang. “We will be doing this in partnership with the consultant community in Singapore,” he added.   

Targeting GCNS members first and then SGX listed companies, Ang and his team in Singapore will be rolling out a series of CEO Briefings and foundation workshops. The next group to be tackled would be the largest pool - GCNS’ principal member Singapore Business Federation and its 22,500 member companies.

“GCNS believes that exchanges like today’s event is a good example of bringing these stakeholders together to drive the system changes needed towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” said Ang. 

Over 400 companies in Singapore have become members of GCNS since its inception in 2005 with one common mission - striving to make sustainability their business case.



Kids Cut Palm Oil And So Can You

Meet a group of young students who are doing what they can to help you reduce palm oil in your life to protect the forests and people. 

By Kayti Denham 

Bali, 20 June 2016. Kids Cut Palm Oil are one of the youth groups leading the GINKalimantan Conference Youth Workshops in September 2016. 

Snack wrappers are pinned up to remind all on the ethics of food production. Thank you Kids Cut Palm Oil for taking action against forest destroying palm oil.This group of committed youngsters, many of whom are international school students based in Bali,  came together as a result of seeing the destruction of the tropical peat land forests of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia. They learned that the major cause of this environmental crisis was the production of conflict palm oil.  Not only that, they learnt that much of the planting is done on land that has been acquired illegally.

They were surprised however to discover that palm oil is a major ingredient in many of the items that they were using daily, from snack foods and cereals to shampoos and soaps. 

Members of Kids Cut Palm Oil (KCPO) saw footage of orang-utans dying, people in masks enduring days with no sun and burning air, and heard stories of young children hospitalised just from breathing in the air.

Having watched Heart of the Haze, a documentary filmed during the worst of the fires, the students heard from firefighters who were battling the flames with hardly any equipment, who were risking their lives to save others. Yet they found their lives and the lives of their friends were full of the products that caused this destruction.

The deliberate torching and burning of nature reserves and primary forests such as this Sabangau forest in 2015 continue year after year in spite of many measures. Switching to supporting ethical producers will send a clear signal on what people really want. Pic: Bernat Ripoll Capilla

That became the moment they knew they must act. So they created a campaign.

Kids Cut Palm Oil and Grow Networks

That’s how Kids Cut Palm Oil began. The KCPO campaign hopes to create global awareness in tandem with worldwide actions to make sure that kids know about the choices they can make to save the animals living in the forests and prevent their future from permanent and irreversible damage.  

Educational materials are available to teachers and groups in boosting forest conservation, which will supplement Kids Cut Palm Oil campaigns and shows.Today KCPO campaigns reach international schools through the vast networks of school alliances and social networks.

Since the KCPO inception, the students have created educational packs that help students of all ages and their teachers create inquiry based learning units.

They also believe in spreading good news and helpful information on alternatives to conflict palm oil. To date the campaigners have reached out to schools in Indonesia, Australia and the United States and delivered presentations, raised petitions and prepared educational materials.  

With these, students are now more aware of the need to cut conflict palm oil from their lives in order to grow up in a world that sustains all life forms.

Jane Goodall recently mentioned Kids Cut Palm Oil in her address to the COP21 - do tune in:

Watch this too. A young member. Liela, from the UN School in New York, created a presentation to help people understand more about why kids as well as adults, should be cutting palm oil from their lives.

Moved to take action? Please contact KCPO through the following ways:











Related articles on Gaia Discovery:

GINKalimantan Conference 2016: Youths Dig Environmental Issues

The Haze, Hazier Deals and the Fiery Blame Game

Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Pathways

Communities Protect Vietnam's Forests

Kellogs to Buy Non-deforested Palm Oil from 2016


GINKalimantan Conference 2016: Youths Dig Environmental Issues

Global Issues Networking Bali will hop over to another part of Indonesia for this year's meet up. Lots are in store for youths participating in the Kalimantan conference from 16-18 September 2016, which will centre largely on social and environmental issues. 

By Kayti Denham

Bali, 13 June 2016. This September, following on the success of three years of Bali-based youth conferences, Global Issues Networking Bali, or GINBali, is heading for a different destination - Kalimantan.

GINKalimantan is part of the global issues network (GIN) that delivers youth conferences on world issues with many discussions and workshops that try to raise awareness and create initiatives as well as solutions for local and international communities.

Students also get a chance to engage in issues such as climate change, biodiversity threats, human rights abuse and discuss application of global initiatives such as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be implemented by 2030. The goals include equal access to energy, water, education and economic resources, gender equality, fighting against climate change and achieving a low-carbon economy.

The shark finning industry has its tentacles all over big companies and small dudes in Asia. Picture: Shawn Heinrichs
The main aim of GIN conferences is to steer students towards recognising how their passion can become a power for change.

Students from Asia including Australia, Vietnam, India and Indonesia will convene to share, show, discuss and develop ideas. Youth leaders who are subject experts will be at hand to guide them with the shaping of ideas and plans into achievable actions and relevant goals that can be applied to local, regional and global problems.

Borneo Nature Foundation, who have been a regional GIN partner for two years, will once again host the conference from 16 to 18 September 2016.

Racing to Prevent Extinction

The work of Borneo Nature Foundation in Kalimantan extends to animal protection, data collection and environment preservation. This makes them an ideal partner for the conference, offering students the opportunity to see first hand how some of the global issues are tackled daily by dedicated individuals.

Furthermore this year the keynote speech is on the environment. The school is located close to the forest where students will have a chance to explore nature and learn more about ecology on a guided excursion.

The film ‘Racing Extinction’ with English soundtrack and Indonesian subtitles will be shown to get participants focused on the goals of the conference. The producers of this film have gifted us this screening and key members of the film will be present to tackle questions from the youths.

When too many whale sharks are fished out, the ocean ecosystem suffers. Racing Extinction highlights just how real and serious the onward extinction is to a number of species if we do not step forward to make a change. Photo: Shawn Heinrichs
The focus on students as workshop co-leaders is a big part of GIN.This year, the leaders hail from many student initiatives including Bali-based Bye Bye Plastic Bags and Kids Cut Palm Oil. They will be sharing with the students on their personal and career journeys - from their formation of an idea to the meetings with international leaders and change makers.

The beautiful Dayak culture will feature in all the workshops that include topics of human rights, food soverignty and educational access for all. Each workshop uses a creative medium in which students can express themselves through a variety of song, painting, creative writing, photography, film making and movement.

Current data on the value of student led learning has shown that an increase in motivation and retention of information occurs, sometimes up to a 30% improvement on teacher to student delivery*. With dynamic conferences like GIN occurring globally, young students of today have the opportunity to not just become aware but also become responsible custodians of their own futures.

Each month up until the conference, GINKalimantan will be sharing features with Gaia Discovery on some of the achievements and initiatives of this dynamic group of youth leaders.

Wish to make a change? Send some money to to help fund a youth or two to attend the GINKalimantan conferenceGINKalimantan is hosted by Borneo Nature Foundation and Bina Cita Utama School from 16-18 September 2016.

Taking global education to the heart of the matter - three days of dynamic interactive experiences.

Visit our website and like our page on facebook.


Help fund Balinese students attend the conference and participate in the regional dialogue for change.

*Supplemental Instruction

Photos courtesy of SHAWN HEINRICHS, who was involved in the cinematography of Racing Extinction.


Naked disrespect : Unsustainable Tourism Behaviour

The current trend of taking naked selfies is not only illegal in many countries, it shows a startling lack of consideration for those cultures that have drawn tourists to visit. Jeremy Torr reports.

Kinabalu, Malaysia, June 2015. Four Western tourists were arrested, jailed and fined recently for stripping off earlier this year for naked selfies on the summit of Mt Kinabalu. That they chose to do so immediately prior to a deadly earthquake that killed 19 other hikers was unfortunate. That they did it at all shows an astonishing lack of consideration for, or understanding of, local cultures and standards.

Backpackers on Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia, took naked photos of themselves on what local people consider to be the sacred summit of the holy mountainIf rural Asian visitors to London started urinating in gutters, as some do in their home villages, Londoners would be outraged. But sadly, those same western tourists seem to assume that as they are from a more "advanced" society, they can behave as they please when on holiday.

The tourists on Kinabalu are not alone in their disrespect. In February this year, two American tourists were arrested by local police for 'taking pornographic naked photos' in Cambodia's Angkor Wat Heritage area.

That the ruins are a sacred temple to many, and the home of worshipping monks did not deter the women from “lowering their pants to their knees and taking pictures of their buttocks,” according to a local police spokesperson.

Only weeks before the Americans had desecrated Angkor's religious site, three French tourists were arrested for taking naked photos at the nearby Banteay Kdei temple, and a group of Chinese tourists was also apprehended while taking semi-naked pictures at the site. Authorities described the acts as “inconsiderate and pornographic,” and deported several of the foreigners.


The Americans arrested at Angkor, Lindsey and Leslie Adams, had been posing for nude pictures in Preah Khan temple. Chau Sun Kerya, a spokesperson for the Apsara National Authority, which administers the Angkor temple complex, said the women had "violated sacred ground,” with their actions.

Angkor's Chau Sun Kerya said some tourists had violated the sanctity of the temple comple

"They admitted that they really made a mistake by taking nude photos," said Chau. "Perhaps they did not know Angkor is a holy site. But their inappropriate activities  affect the sanctity of the place.” According to local standards of behaviour, taking naked photos is an act that is totally against Khmer ethics and culture.

As a result of these recent violations of local cultural standards, Cambodia has instigated a "Visitor Code of  Conduct" for tourists visiting Angkor Archaeological Park.

The code, posted on the Agence Kampuchea Press website, specifies rules that advise visitors against against wearing revealing clothes, touching carvings or sitting on fragile structures, as well as smoking, and entering restricted areas at the temples. It also warns specifically against "any act of exposing sex organs and nudity in public areas" as well as the more obvious looting, breaking or damaging any part of the temple. According to the code, these are "crimes punishable by law."

Despite the fact that the tourists on Kinabalu, Briton Eleanor Hawkins, Canadians Lindsey and Danielle Peterson, and Dutchman Dylan Snel said later they realised they were doing something "stupid and disrespectful", they went ahead and did it anyway - and would have made it available on social media had they not been arrested.

The tourists arrested at Angkor were fined and banned from returning to Cambodia - but the question remains: why did these westerners visit these sites in the first place?

Recognising standards

 It also raises the question why, if they only wanted to take desecrating selfies to post online - knowing that the rocks or buildings or trees were ancient and sacred to the local people - did they decide to pose naked when other people would see it and possibly be highly offended?

Angkor is a living breathing temple still used by local monks to worship - not a backdrop for soft porn

If western tourists want to visit some of Asia's finest nude beaches, swim naked in a waterfall pool or just take vampy photos at the mall - no problem. If local custom is OK with it, that's what those places are for.

If they want to visit some of the ancient and revered remnants of cultures that still take an important role throughout Asia today, do that too - but try to understand and appreciate what unique and rare qualities they have to offer. Not pursuing the taking of desecrating photos as the main reason to be there.

Visiting a foreign place and treating it with disrespect not only taints the site - no matter if it's a tree, a mountain, a temple or a rock - but it also taints the image of tourists in the eyes of the local people.

The tourists, even if they are caught in the act, can simply up and leave but once it has been taken and shared, the image of the pornographic photo stains the site forever in the eyes and minds of the local people.




Air France-KLM leads CSR in air transport sector

For the eleventh successive year running, Air France-KLM surpassed other companies in its corporate social responsibility performance to emerge top in the “Airlines” category of Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). By Tan Hui Zhen.

Singapore, 6th October 2015- Ranked amongst the 24 most accountable groups in the world, Air France-KLM is reputable for its active commitment towards environmental and social sustainability in the air transport industry. Mr Frédéric Gagey, Chairman and CEO of Air France, shares that corporate social responsibility is at the “heart of [their] corporate strategy”.

Carriers of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France. Photo credit: Air France"Every day, Air France-KLM does all it can to design the future of air transport. We want the transport we provide to be caring, innovative and responsible,” says Mr Alexandre de Juniac, Chairman and CEO of the major long-haul air service provider outside Europe.

Together, the two air carriers operate flights to 231 destinations across approximately 100 countries from their bases in Paris- Charles de Gaulle, and Amsterdam- Schipol. The group carried 87.3 million passengers in 2014 and boasts more than 24.5 million members for its Flying Blue frequent flyer programme in Europe.

To incorporate corporate social responsibility into its large-scale flight operations and activities, Air France-KLM prioritizes four key agendas:

(1) Minimizing environmental degradation by optimizing processes, engaging all staff and industry stakeholders, and improvising supply chain;

(2) Mainstreaming objectives of corporate social responsibility across entire service chain to produce creative and responsible goods and services;

(3) Providing opportunities for individual development and promoting a responsible workforce policy to maintain competence and drive of employees;

(4) Supporting local socioeconomic development in regions where the group operates.

Amongst its many innovative initiatives, Air France-KLM will be continuing the use of sustainable biofuel for some flights to spur the industry into establishing a biofuel market. It has also channelled investments towards designing more eco-friendly goods on-board flights to reduce carbon emissions.

Responding to Air France-KLM outstanding corporate sustainability performance in DJSI, Mr Pieter Elbers, President and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines says, “It confirms not only that we assume responsibility as an employer, but also pursue innovation and take our responsibility with regard to the environment and society seriously. KLM has an established track record proving this.”

Apart from being listed in DJSI by global asset management company RobecoSAM since 2005, the Group also performed strongly in non-financial indexes like NYSE Euronext Vigeo, Ethibel and FTSE4Good.


ACCOR Planet 21 - Eco-Responsibility Benchmarks in Action 

Accor is a hotel group that runs over 630 hotels in 17 countries across Asia Pacific. In 2012, it  launched PLANET 21 to set quantifiable sustainability goals for its hotels - and today, over 90% of those hotels reach all those goals, and 97% of hotels offer eco products.

Singapore, 7 May 2015. Using its PLANET 21 campaign as a guide, Accor hotels across all brands - Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Sebel, Novotel, Mercure, Adagio and Ibis - claim  significant progress in reducing their environmental footprint. In Asia Pacific, waste recycling is practised in 86% of Accor hotels and 93% of them ban endangered seafood products such as shark’s fin (up from 71% in 2013). The group is progressing towards a total ban by 2015.

“PLANET 21 is more than just an environmental programme though, it is a clear pathway for our hotels to operate responsibly," says Michael Issenberg, Chairman and CEO Accor Asia Pacific.

The Green Meeting Package of Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay provides pens rolled out of used newspapers That approach has allowed hotel managers across the region to implement a whole range of sustainable initiatives. Today, 97% of Accor's Asia Pacific hotels use eco-labelled products. Almost 90% organize disease prevention training for employees. And 97% of hotels offer healthy menu options (up from 87% in 2013) and 87% promote locally-grown produce (up from 82%, and exceeding the original global target of 70%).

One key initiative was the reduction in water consumption: since 2011, Accor regional hotels have achieved a 5.6% reduction in water usage. Additionally, it has worked with bakery company Bridor to reduce the environmental footprint of its baguettes and croissants served on a average of 56 million breakfasts a year. Improvements in the baking process have seen electricity and water consumption reduction by 10% and 30% over in the last two years.

As well, individual hotels are encouraged to raise the bar higher with employee-inspired initiatives. Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay now offers a Green Meeting package with environmentally-friendly meeting and catering facilities, and with a reforestation contribution. Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centres generate little or no waste due to strict waste management policies. And the four Accor hotels at Sydney Olympic Park, Australia use solar energy for electricity and hot water production.

Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre uses innovative technology to treat sewage water into clear water that is used for gardening

Accor chairman and CEO Sébastien Bazin described Planet 21’s goal as such: “With customers claiming to be increasingly concerned about sustainable development challenges, PLANET 21 lets us make sustainable hospitality a reality.”

Accor says it is proud of its stance, and its progress. Today, it lists 91% of the network (more than 500  hotels) as having achieved PLANET 21 goals in at least ten fundamental areas, up 11% from 2013. And guests can find eco-labelled and certified products at 97% of Asia Pacific hotels, as well as relish the fact that their Accor stays have resulted directly in the planting of 225,000 trees at ten regional sites in the last seven years. Even better, the reuse of laundry towels, group-wide has led to four million trees being planted at 150 sites planted in 21 countries - as well as giving €13 million in laundry savings.

"We have set firm commitments to protect our planet, its people and their environment,” said Issenberg.

  • More details:




Green Meetings: Companies reduce environmental impact

Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay introduces a service where aware companies can reduce their environmental impact, enjoy healthy meals - and help forestation by sponsoring tree planting at the same time.

Novotel Clarke Quay is innovating business meetings with its new range of offeringsSingapore, April 2015 – In line with its sustainability intiatives, the Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay (part of the Accor Group) has designed a new offering it calls “Green Meeting packages” along with environmentally friendly MICE facilities it describes as helping to “Plant your company success“.

Under its Planet 21 framework, Accor has made 21 commitments in favor of sustainable practice. Planet 21 echoes Accor’s recognition of the urgent need to focus efforts on changing our production and consumption patterns with the goal of protecting our planet, its people and their environment. Following the hotel’s recent ISO 14001 certification, it was awarded 2014’s Champion of the Singapore Environment Council under the Kimberly Clark Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards for its achievements in the Services category.

Its latest initiatiove allows companies wishing to keep their consumption patterns under control to make what it calls a “Green Choice” when booking the next meeting. The hotel has committed to plant one tree in plantation sites in Indonesia for every 40 meeting packages booked. The trees will be planted on the company’s behalf and a certificate of participation with the number of trees will be supplied to the organisers. The scheme is part of Accor’s reforestation program called “Plant for the Planet”.

The hotel will also supply Eco-pens as part of its green meeting packages. These are handmade by the poor using recycled newspapers through the “Yayasan Peduli Tunas Bangsa” Accor foundation in Indonesia. Accor channels funds collected to run workshops and financially support the underprivileged, who are then able to send their children to school.

Companies can enjoy 10% off when booking the Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay Green Meetings packages from now until end September 2015, and residential groups will enjoy a complimentary room. Terms & conditions apply. 

For more information about the “Planting your company success @ Novotel”,  visit  or call +65 6433 8633  or  email:

For more about Accor’s PLANET 21 drive, visit :



Singapore’s Eco-hotel: Ibis Bencoolen bans plastic bottles 

One of Singapore’s leading hotels has taken the plunge and stopped all use of plastic bottles for guest drinking water, reports Mallika Naguran.

Singapore, March 26, 2015. Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen has been working on a plan to reduce waste, plastic consumption, and save water. Part of this is a move by the 538-room Accor Group hotel to stop providing regular plastic mineral bottled water, and instead offer water from a special filtration system as part of what it calls its Eco Clean program.

Guests that opt for recycled bottles get a handmade Eco pen in appreciation of their gestureThe result? Less plastic and water used, more funds for charities that Accor supports, and a unique pen for guests to use.

“My team brainstormed and arrived at this idea of involving guests in this program,” explains Pierre de Montgrand, General Manager of Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen.

de Montgrand says the use of glass bottles has prevented the hotel from throwing away around 6,000 single-use plastic mineral water bottles a year -  equivalent to 700kg of plastic waste per annum that could end up in landfills or Singapore’s waterways. “I am pleased that our hotel is able to contribute towards Singapore’s sustainability direction,” he says.

The hotel’s initiative is set against the context of the tourism industry’s typical  contribution to ever increasing wastage and resource exploitation. Typical areas are waste in the form of newspapers, magazines, office papers, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, aluminium cans, plastic containers, printer toner cartridges, food and water waste. Plus, lots of precious water and energy resources.

Beyond the Bottle

The Ibis’s Eco Clean goes beyond just recycling drinking bottles. It is a holistic program that starts with guests opting for Eco Clean at check in. This means housekeepers will tidy the room, make the beds and clear the bins, but cleaning chemicals will be used sparingly, linen and amenities will only be changed and replenished as requested.

The Ibis Bencoolen has moved completely to recyclable glass drinks bottles instead of disposable plasticAs a reward, guests are provided with the Ibis’s free and unlimited refills of sparkling or still water served in a re-usable borosilicate glass bottle. Ibis Bencoolen works with a local firm, Dr. WHO Waterworks Pte Ltd (Dr. WHO), a leading manufacturer and distributors in the bottled water industry for the complete bottling, sterilising and refilling system.

Cost savings from the Eco Clean program are then channelled towards supporting the livelihoods of the poor in Indonesia through the “Yayasan Peduli Tunas Bangsa” foundation sponsored by Accor Group.

With the funding received, a workshop for disadvantaged mothers has been set up to make pens hand rolled from recycled newspapers. These Eco-Pens are then purchased by Ibis Bencoolen for guests’ use, and left in their rooms.

“This completes the Eco Clean circular concept that starts with guests’ participation and ends with them seeing the fruits of our labour,” adds de Montgrand. And if that isn’t enough, guests can borrow bamboo bikes from the hotel to reduce the negative environmental impact of taking taxis and buses around Singapore.

The Eco Clean program is part of the Accor Group PLANET 21 initiative. This aims to bring sustainable development and a more responsible hotel operation worldwide.

Details from the Ibis Bencoolen – 


Asian Ecotourism Network To Be Launched by 2015

Kota Kinabalu, 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 sometime mid-2015 housed within 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 at a regional level.

This ultimately will provide 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 Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, South Korea, Mongolia, India, Laos, Pakistan, Bhutan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the 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 To Ban Shark Fin at Leased & Managed Asia Pacific Hotels

Singapore, 1st September 2014 - 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.

Reaffirming its commitment to operate as a responsible business, the company will stop serving shark fin at its leased and managed hotels and food & beverage establishments across Asia Pacific beginning September 1, 2014. This initiative marks the 11th anniversary of Carlson Rezidor’s Responsible Business Month, where its hotels are encouraged to take action by championing activities that benefit the local community and the environment.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year to feed consumer demands, and they are particularly vulnerable because of their relatively low reproduction rates. In 2010, over 180 species of sharks were considered threatened, being listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. 

“The hotel industry has a responsibility to conserve the environment and play an active role in its sustainable future. By making this stance, Carlson Rezidor hopes to encourage others to join this ban, influence consumer behavior and more importantly, to contribute to the preservation of marine biodiversity for the benefit of future generations. This ban on shark fin at our leased and managed hotels and food & beverage outlets and moving towards sustainable seafood is our commitment to operating as a responsible business,” said Thorsten Kirschke, president, Asia Pacific, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.  

Carlson Rezidor has a rich history of responsible business practices, being one of the first global hospitality and travel companies to sign up to the United Nations Global Compact in 2010, aligning to the company’s environmental policy to minimize its impact on the environment. Carlson Rezidor’s responsible business practice centres on the three pillars including People, which takes responsibility for diversity and inclusion, as well as the health and safety of employees and customers. The second pillar Community promotes social and ethical leadership within the company and the community while Environment aims to reduce our negative impact on the earth.

About Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic hotel groups. The Carlson Rezidor portfolio includes more than 1,350 hotels in operation and under development with a footprint spanning over 105 countries and territories and a powerful set of global brands including Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu®, Radisson®, Radisson Red, Park Plaza®, Park Inn® by Radisson and Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM. In most hotels, guests can benefit from Club CarlsonSM, one of the most rewarding loyalty programs in the world. Carlson Rezidor and its brands employ 88,000 people.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., and Brussels, Belgium.


Inspiring Tourism Stories Competition 2014

Here's a platform to share your journey and achievements in responsible tourism. The top three winners will be heard at ITB Asia this October, Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show.



Singapore, 12 August 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.


Have you empowered local people? Saved a rare wildlife species? Protected an area’s cultural heritage? Innovated ways to run a tourism business that is kinder to the environment? Have you through the power of tourism used it as a force for good? We want to hear your story. 


2013 Top 3 Winner: The Family Tree – Premruethai (Dtor) and her son Louie replanting trees in Hua Hin, Thailand as part of a rehabilitation project spearheaded by The Family Tree, an NGO founded by her and her husband, Peter Richards.Inspiring Stories from Destinations is an annual competition providing an international platform for tourism players to get their story heard at ITB Asia in Singapore. The competition seeks exciting stories from organisations and individuals who have found in themselves a passion to make a difference in the travel industry and leave a legacy for the next generation.


(Check out winning stories from 2012 and 2013 Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition).


What Inspiring Stories from Destinations is looking for?

The selection of successful stories is based on the authenticity of the story, creative and innovative elements, and the power to inspire others towards making responsible tourism a reality. (Terms on Wild Asia website)


What’s in it for you?

· Top 3 Winners will receive complimentary tickets to ITB Asia Responsible Tourism Events and will be given 15 minutes each to share their story on the Responsible Tourism stage to an audience of like-minded tourism professionals and potential customers

· Top 3 Winners will have their story published on the Wild Asia’s website and Gaia Discovery’s website.

· Top 3 Winners will benefit from the reach of both Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery’s social media networks.


How to enter

Submit your stories in any of the following form:


 · In words; no more than 1,000 words

 · Video; no more than 5 minutes

 · Slideshow; no more than 15 slides


Email your entries to by 14th September 2014 (Sunday). Please title your email “RT Stories for RT Event at ITB Asia 2014″ and include your Name, Email, Organization and Destination in your email. Successful applicants will be notified via email by 30th September, 2014. Winners will be invited to speak at ITB Asia (Terms on Wild Asia website).


Inspiring Stories is part of the annual Responsible Tourism networking events that started in 2009. Organised and supported by ITB Asia, Wild Asia and this year with the inclusion of Gaia Discovery, this annual event hopes to bring together sustainable tourism practitioners to share, engage, learn and be inspired to make a difference.


About Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery


Wild Asia is a social enterprise working to protect and support the conservation of natural areas and local communities via the tourism industry. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative works through strategic partnerships with businesses and modules to facilitate learning and implementation of international standards and guidelines. Our ultimate goal is to promote sustainable practices that will adverse impacts on the environment and ensure that local communities are engaged and empowered. For more on Wild Asia's tourism work, go to





Gaia Discovery is Asia's premier independent publication reaching out to readers from more than 100 countries daily. This online publication aims to influence industrialists, builders and hoteliers to forsake their myopic stance in developing properties that are commercially viable but detrimental to the balance of eco-systems. Through Gaia Discovery, we will urge them to exercise greater thought and care in protecting the environment and its inhabitants, and when they do, we will recognize them for making the change. Gaia Discovery is a green reference point to cultivating pro-planet practices, incorporating home, living, business, travel, music, art and adventures. For more on Gaia Discovery, go to



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

Good Living Design Jam puts ethics into the Singapore shopping culture on 27 and 28 September 2014. Crowdfunding sought.

By Tan Hui Zhen

Singapore, 21 July 2014. Singaporeans are coming together in support of the first ever hackathon focused on ethical shopping: the Good Living Design Jam.

This novel event will  bring  together  experts  in  social  &  digital  media  to develop interactive media that can inspire consumers to buy products that are good for society and the environment.  
More than $3,000 has been raised to date, with donations ranging from $10 to $500. 
Ethical shopping is the idea that consumers use their spending to take action on the issues that they care about, by buying from companies that are more environmentally friendly, or that treat their workers fairly. 
“Consumers spent over $2 billion on the Great Singapore Sale in 2013, and this year looks set to do the same. We want to make it possible for every consumer to know that every dollar they spend is helping to make the world a better place” said Chris Jensen, Founder of Good for Us, the organisation behind the event.  
The organisers are pleased with the way crowdfunding has helped to gather a community with a shared interest for transforming shopping: “People have told us this will never work, that Singaporean’s don’t care, but I’ve never really believed that, and it’s very gratifying to be able to see a community come together to show a passion for caring for people and the planet”, said Chris Jensen. 
In  the  last  year,  incidents  in  the  clothing  and  electronics  industries  have  brought  more attention to factory worker’s safety and to the impact our spending can have on others. 
The Good Living Design Jam will be held on 27 and 28 September 2014. The team is still seeking donations for their event. Crowdfunding closes on 26 July, 2014, and donations can be made at  
For more information, contact Good for Us Pte. Ltd or Chris Jensen at
About Good for Us 

Good for Us is a social enterprise that seeks to enable everyone to know that their daily actions contribute to a better world and a good life for everyone. 
Good for Us compiles and simplifies information and stories on the impacts that companies have on the world. Through our website consumers can find and support the brands that are acting on the issues we all care about. 
With support from the Ground­Up Initiative (GUI) community, Good for Us seeks to enable people to spread the values nurtured in that community through our shopping choices.
More information can be found here.  
About the Good Living Design Jam 

The Good Living Design Jam is a two day hackathon event to bring together digital and social media experts to redesign the way we shop for a fair, just and sustainable world. 
We want to make conscious consumption an exciting and essential part of our shopping experience, and ultimately, of our identity.  
Over the two days, participants will develop apps, videos, social media and other viral content to make it more exciting for consumers to discover and act on the impact that things we buy have on the world. 

Contested Palm Oil Leases Declared Illegal in Papua New Guinea

By Jake Conroy

Papua New Guinea, 21 May 2014. The National Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has declared that two large land development leases claimed by Malaysia-based Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) in the Collingwood Bay region of PNG are void and has ordered the State to cancel the title deeds. As a result, KLK will not be able to develop the 38,350 hectares of land subject to the leases, which is part of the customary territory of nine Indigenous tribes who rely on the natural landscape of the region as the basis for their economy and subsistence livelihoods. Most of the land in question is pristine tropical forest containing extremely high levels of biological diversity.

The issue garnered international attention when Collingwood Bay landowners asked Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other allies to support their formal complaint to the RSPO against KLK’s activities on their land. In January the RSPO issued a decision ordering KLK to cease all activity until the legality of leases was determined by the courts and to demonstrate proof that the Free Prior and Informed Consent process carried out involved the whole of the affected community, rather than small pockets of it.

Read more about how KLK is disregarding communities’ right to withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Contest to developments on their lands in Liberia from the rest of this RAN’s post.


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

By Duane D. Stanford

Deforestation due to palm oil particularly has caused loss of habitats and wiidlife. Picture courtesy of Rio Helmi.Atlanta, 15 February 2014. 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.

Starting in 2016, palm oil - a vegetable oil used to cook Pop-Tarts to Pringles - will be sourced through supply chains that are deemed “environmentally appropriate,” states a new policy posted on the Battle Creek, Michigan-based company’s website. Suppliers must trace the oil to plantations that are independently verified as legally compliant, Kellogg’s Chief Sustainability Officer Diane Holdorf said in an e-mail.

“Kellogg’s aggressive timeline for eliminating deforestation from its supply chain raises the bar for the entire industry and represents a tipping point in developing a responsible palm oil supply chain,” Lucia von Reusner, an activist for Boston-based Green Century Capital Management Inc., which filed a shareholder proposal asking for policy changes, said in an interview.

Read about how Kellogg is influencing Wilmar, world's largest palm oil trader, to become more responsible from the rest of this Bloomberg's post.