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Good corporate citizens

Five winners and finalists in the MNC category of the Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards share their views on building a sustainable business.

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Mr Nuboer: Our customer solutions range from renewable energy, for example, advanced biofuels and materials for solar panels, to driving responsible consumption and production and improving nutrition.

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Mr Wong: An increasing sustainability-mindset and culture, coupled with the development of business sustainability and best practices, play integral roles in Sembcorp Marine's global business operations.

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Mr Verghese: We recognise that the world cannot continue with same agricultural systems. We literally have to re-imagine global agriculture without compromising our ethos of growing responsibly.

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Mr Widjaja: Being able to demonstrate more clearly how we are delivering on sustainability commitments delivers various benefits from access to premium markets to being able to attract the best workers.

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Mr Sirivadhanabhakdi: To achieve its resource usage reduction goals, the company has adopted a two-pronged approach - greening the hardware (buildings) and software (mindsets).

PARTICIPANTS:

Wong Weng Sun: Sembcorp Marine President & CEO

Sunny Verghese: Co-founder and CEO of Olam International

Panote Sirivadhanabhakdi: CEO, Frasers Centrepoint

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Market voices on:

Pieter Nuboer: Asia-Pacific President of DSM Nutritional Products and Asia-Pacific Vice-President of Animal Nutrition & Health

Franky Widjaja, Chairman and CEO of Golden Agri-Resources

Moderator: Francis Kan

Business Times: Why is sustainability important to your business and how has your organisation benefited from pursuing it?

Pieter Nuboer: Sustainability is the core value of our company. Climate change, population growth, longer lifespans, increased wealth and urbanisation are all increasing pressure on the planet's resources that we rely on for food, materials and energy. At Royal DSM, we are in a unique position to focus our scientific competences on these challenges defining our world.

We've completely transformed our business over the last century to do this, from coal mining in the early 1900s, into bulk chemicals and petrochemicals post-1945, to where we are today - a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials.

Wong Weng Sun: Sembcorp Marine's operations often involve mega-scale engineering and vessel construction activities that can impact environment and local communities. As a major energy consumer and leading player in the offshore and marine sector, we are committed to comprehensively addressing stakeholders' sustainability expectations. This way, we can drive business growth while operating with a social licence.

An increasing sustainability-mindset and culture, coupled with the development of business sustainability and best practices, play integral roles in Sembcorp Marine's global business operations. We want to ensure our business; communities and the environment can thrive and flourish together. Integrating sustainability seamlessly into our business operations has benefited Sembcorp Marine in many areas, including diversifying into non-drilling oil and gas solutions, future-proofing our business with strategic investments in gas and clean-fuel knowledge and developing green technology retrofit solutions for the offshore and marine sector.

Sunny Verghese: As you are aware, Olam is a leading global agribusiness. Agribusinesses, more so than any other sector, face huge environmental and social challenges that are interlocked and complex. It is responsible for 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for 71 per cent of all fresh water withdrawals.

We need to increase food production by 70 per cent on a calorific value basis and double it on a crop production basis by 2050 to feed a growing population, while using fewer resources to do so to ensure the planet can sustain us. We recognise that the world cannot continue with same agricultural systems, as they are no longer fit for purpose. This is why we literally have to re-imagine global agriculture without compromising our ethos of growing responsibly.

Panote Sirivadhanabhakdi: As one of Singapore's top property companies, Frasers Centrepoint Limited (FCL) keeps a close tab on the pulse of the market. Sustainability consistently comes up as both a key risk and an opportunity for the company during its regular review of the current and future business landscape, as well as during its engagement with stakeholders.

It is not surprising then, that sustainability is core to every aspect of FCL's business. Looking into the ways in which the space the company provides can enhance wellbeing, productivity and enjoyment for users, in a manner that is friendly to the environment and local communities, is at the heart of what FCL does.

Franky Widjaja: As a leading agribusiness Golden Agri-Resources' sustainability is ultimately at the heart of our business. It's not a choice, it is a business imperative. To be able to continue to grow oil palms in the various rural communities we work in across Indonesia we must take care of the environment as well as have healthy positive relationships with the communities in which we operate.

Being able to demonstrate more clearly how we are delivering on sustainability commitments delivers various benefits from access to premium markets to being able to attract the best workers. For us it's an investment in the future of our business and the industry as a whole.

BT: What sustainability programmes do you have in place?

Pieter Nuboer: DSM has identified three key areas within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in which we can drive sustainable markets: Nutrition, Climate Change & Renewable Energy and Bio-based & Circular Economy. Our customer solutions range from renewable energy, for example, advanced biofuels and materials for solar panels, to driving responsible consumption and production and improving nutrition in the fight for "Zero Hunger".

Working with the World Food Programme to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, we are now reaching approximately 28 million people every year. Internally, we're reducing our own carbon footprint and strongly support carbon pricing, while actively advocating climate action through partnerships with the likes of the UN, World Economic Forum and the World Bank Group's climate action agenda.

Wong Weng Sun: Sembcorp Marine believes in adopting a multi-pronged approach to environmental sustainability. This covers climate action, ocean action and earth action. In terms of climate action, we have put in place an integrated, smart and efficient operations at our Tuas Boulevard Yard to reduce carbon footprint, and tapped on renewable energy sources such as a new 4.5 MWp solar rooftop that will be installed at Tuas Boulevard Yard.

For the ocean, we participate in international sustainability organisations such as the World Ocean Council, which contributes to responsible use of the ocean, which is where our business is anchored.

Finally we have an E4R (Eliminate, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Recover) programme that encourages staff to reduce the consumption of resources while preserving them.

Sunny Verghese: They run through every aspect of our business, from conserving water in almond orchards to supporting over 300,000 smallholders under the Olam Livelihood Charter. We are now working on embedding a "sustainability chip" in our products to track our social and environmental footprint transparently.

We also know that we need to learn more which is why we have many research alliances. Together with the Agropolis Foundation, we launched the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security and this year's winner has succeeded in developing a heat-tolerant strain of wheat that will transform the lives of thousands of farmers in the Senegal Basin.

Panote Sirivadhanabhakdi: To achieve its resource usage reduction goals, the company has adopted a two-pronged approach - greening the hardware (buildings) and software (mindsets).

From its first BCA Green Mark building award in 2006, FCL's efforts at greening the hardware have gathered momentum year-on-year. The company invests much effort and capital into developing green buildings, such as ensuring that energy efficiency measures are incorporated into the building designs, and using renewable energy sources where feasible. Today, the company's buildings in Singapore are consistently ranked among the BCA Top 10 energy efficient buildings.

Franky Widjaja: Our sustainability programmes span environmental management, social and community engagement, worker rights and supply chain management. We've voluntarily set aside 72,000ha of high conservation value and high carbon stock forest for protection - an area roughly equal to Singapore. Beyond that we are working with our supply chain to transform the sector to become more productive through sustainable practices. And we work on a wide range of community projects from providing education, schools and healthcare facilities for workers and village communities, to teaching alternative farming practices that prevent fires and help villages feed themselves as well as earn additional income by selling vegetables and fruits in local markets.

BT: What are some of the challenges you face in promoting sustainability in your organisation?

Pieter Nuboer: Adopting sustainable development goals is a good business opportunity, and DSM has kept this belief at the core of everything we do. I'd say our biggest challenge today actually lies outside our organisation, in educating societies and businesses on the merits of pursuing more sustainable solutions. This is especially pertinent in a region like Asia where there are huge disparities in wealth and development.

Wong Weng Sun: Sembcorp Marine started its sustainability programme in 2010. In this early stage of learning process and implementation, it was inevitable to focus on compliance and reporting and more of a reactive role.

This was partly due to a relatively less developed and rigid framework where the sustainability efforts might not seem so useful to the organisation.

As Sembcorp Marine's sustainability programmes evolved and matured, we took on a more proactive role, integrating it into the workings of the company, its transformation for growth process and business operations.

Sunny Verghese: If you are not working in communities or responsible for sustainability, it can seem removed from your job.

This is why we focus on celebrating the successes on the ground, making people proud of their achievements. Of course, the proof is in the pudding - one of the best ways to prove that sustainability drives company value is when they see customers wanting to partner us in our sustainability initiatives or enter into longer-term contracts.

Panote Sirivadhanabhakdi: Although green practices cost money to implement, to FCL, this is a worthwhile investment and is part of the company's commitment as a responsible corporate citizen.

Franky Widjaja,: We employ some 170,000 people in Indonesia alone, and work with many hundreds of thousands more within our supply chain.

Our challenge is how to take these people, many of whom work in remote rural locations, on this sustainability journey with us. We have to instil a deep understanding of the importance of sustainability to the business and what they need to do every day to help us deliver on our commitments.

BT: How do you track success in this area?

Pieter Nuboer: We put great effort into managing and tracking sustainability through having the right people, partners and processes in place to deliver against goals of a healthier planet, a fairer world, and sustainable and profitable growth for DSM.

Our 'Brighter Living Solutions' now account for 63 percent of DSM's product portfolio and globally our workforce operates under a strong 'Safety Health and Environment (SHE)' culture which has a long history of driving the sustainability performance of our own internal operations.

We record our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and current performance in our annual report and disclose our climate actions in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in which we are among the nine per cent of participating corporations to be named on the Climate A List.

Wong Weng Sun: Today, Sembcorp Marine has successfully integrated sustainability practices in our day-to-day operations. Our sustainability governance is achieved through the Sustainability Council, chaired by the president & CEO with board of directors oversight.

Sembcorp Marine's sustainability report is prepared against Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) Standards and is informed by ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility, to ensure the group's sustainability ambition and programmes are aligned with well-established international standards.

Sunny Verghese: We have identified seven material areas in the social and environmental areas that impact our business. Each has goals, objectives and targets. We lay out our misses and achievements against these goals and provide an outlook for the year ahead in our Annual Reports.

We also follow the external GRI reporting framework and have signed up to the Principles of the UN Global Compact. The UN Sustainable Development Goals also provide us a useful framework to develop our sustainability strategy.

It is also equally important to address areas that are not advancing so well so that we can learn from that and transfer these learning from one product and one region to another. Listening is also important.

Panote Sirivadhanabhakdi: FCL's Central Park Sydney mixed-use development is a stellar example of the company's commitment to the environment. Central Park Sydney houses its own tri-generation, low-carbon natural gas power plant as well as its own recycled water network.

The development also boasts the largest green fa├žade ever undertaken on a residential tower in Australia, and the first light-reflecting heliostat system installed on a residential building.

Franky Widjaja: Operationally we deploy technology to provide insights on the performance of our agronomy and harvesting practices.

We are now overlaying this production information with sustainability insights to enhance management decision-making. GAR's Sustainability Report provides an annual assessment of our performance against our commitments, our online

Dashboard provides more immediate updates and of course we use external assessments such as our commitment to RSPO certification to ensure we are on track for success.

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