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Unlocking successful collaborations at the C-suite level and a spotlight on the rural livelihoods agenda: Global Agribusiness Alliance at the Innovation Forum

For the third year running, the Global Agribusiness Alliance (GAA) was pleased to sponsor the Innovation Forum’s Sustainable Landscapes and Commodities Forum held virtually this year from 3-5 November 2020. Attendees debated and showcased solutions to the most pressing and urgent challenges in commodity supply chains, and discussed how to best embed sustainable supply chains on an agenda increasingly framed by the need for urgent food system transformation.

Published: 25 Nov 2020
Author: Melanie Levine
Type: Insight

Pak Arif Rachmat, GAA Chair and Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Triputra Agro Persada (TAP), participated in an opening panel to provide a C-suite perspective on how to unlock successful collaborations at a senior level. TAP, an Indonesia-based palm oil company, engages in multiple public-private partnerships aiming to foster forest and ecosystem conservation, smallholder livelihood development, and community-driven fire prevention.

A vocal advocate for fostering long-term systemic change through close collaboration between companies, NGOs, and the Indonesian government, Pak Arif maintains leadership roles within PISAgro - Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN), and GAA. In this Innovation Forum session, Pak Arif characterized the success factors for collaboration:

  • Authenticity and common purpose: a genuine commitment to partnering for the achievement of sustainability outcomes including poverty alleviation, smallholder welfare, and environmental preservation. “It’s about sincerity of intention,” he said, especially when working across sectors on these initiatives. “Establishing that government and private sector have the same goal is so critical.”
  • Transparency: the importance of “over-communication” in fostering an environment of trust and avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Accountability: the need to connect a ‘grand vision’ with measurable deliverables and timeline to hold leaders and partners accountable for keeping their promises.
  • Quick wins: reach for ‘low-hanging fruit’ to establish a track record of achievement and fuel energy and focus around longer-term, tougher challenges. Pak Arif advised conference attendees “not to get caught up in analysis paralysis. Start, and then refine.”

Ultimately, Pak Arif emphasized the importance of embodying ‘Gotong Royang’ as a senior leader. This Indonesian phrase means mutual help and sharing of burdens through the spirit of community; a collaborative approach across sectors is essential if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals together. And who is responsible for driving this collaboration? “It needs to come from the top,” Pak Arif said, also underscoring that “sustainability is not a cost; it’s a matter of survival.”

Later at the Forum, Ruth Thomas moderated a GAA member panel discussion on the role of agribusiness in driving rural social and economic development.

Anita Neville, GAA Steering Committee Member and SVP Group Corporate Communications at Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), underscored the importance of supply-side agribusiness collaboration to tackle these social sustainability challenges. She cited GAA’s Action Brief on Evolving rural livelihoods and the role of agribusiness, an independent report co-financed by the GAA membership that explores trends such as young people migrating out of rural areas, leading to a rapidly-aging farming workforce. GAA members are carving out a role for building thriving and resilient rural communities by strengthening the agri-SMEs – the “connective tissue” that provide critical links between smallholders and big off-takers like GAR.  To address the challenges they face in accessing finance, and under her leadership, GAA has launched an Agri-SME Digital Finance Platform .

Mauro Gonzalez, Director of Sustainable Agriculture from GAA member Philip Morris International (PMI), discussed the agribusiness role in ensuring that human rights are respected amongst all farmers and workers. PMI sources from over 300,000 growers, most of whom farm less than two hectares of land. A multi-pronged approach to human rights policy, due diligence, and remediation is critical for agricultural supply chains, and Gonzalez shared PMI’s approach which includes a policy handbook in alignment with International Labor Organization standards; training for farmers and staff; internal monitoring systems; publicly-available reports; and collaborative programs for impact.

Gonzalez shared that poverty is a root cause of many human rights abuses. Helping farmers to improve the productivity of their crop portfolios and garner high yields can stimulate higher incomes and is a part of PMI’s approach to securing human rights. He noted that other factors such as market access, public infrastructure, and education systems are also critical to prevent farmers from falling into poverty.

GAA has recently launched a toolkit for advancing human rights policy and practice in the agribusiness sector and will work with members into 2021 to support its uptake and implementation.

Through these sessions at the Innovation Forum, the GAA shared how leaders in the private sector are working to reduce risk in their supply chains, strengthen rural livelihoods, and help the sector make an additional contribution to SDGs.

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