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Educating suppliers on additional OHS implementation during COVID-19


Our supplier engagement team often conducts SMART SPOT (Sustainability Palm Oil Training) on topics like traceability and forest conservation. However, with COVID-19 having such a significant impact on the palm oil industry, we realised that suppliers could benefit from practical measures on operating safely during the pandemic.

We worked with International Labour Organisation (ILO), to have a SMART SPOT session about the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) of palm oil workers during COVID-19, via webinar. Our goal was to educate suppliers about the gravity of the situation, and to have them adopt the ILO action checklist – a practical toolkit to help companies mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work.

A total of 50 participants from 29 companies attended the webinar. Participants were from HR, OHS and Sustainability departments, functions responsible for enacting policies related to COVID-19 for their own companies.

Opening of the webinar by Dr. Gotz Martin, Head of Sustainability Implementation, GAR.

During the webinar, participants were encouraged to be hands-on, identifying roles in their companies that run higher risks of exposure to the virus, and discussing how to prevent and reduce that risk at work. As dealing with infectious viruses in the field is still rather new, the sharing of ideas and practices was very useful in formulating best practices related to the prevention of COVID-19 in the palm oil industry.

They were then introduced to the ILO action checklist, where participants dove deeper into practices that could be implemented in their respective work environments. We guided everyone in completing the action checklist, jotting down actions that have been taken, have yet to be taken, or require improvement, in order to minimise occupational risks associated with COVID-19. Participants submitted their completed checklists at the end of the webinar, as a reference point of where they were in terms of pandemic safety preparedness. GAR and ILO are using the results to observe our suppliers’ progress and measure the effectiveness of the checklist.

What we have learnt

Business continuity is extremely important, and being prepared is something all companies – big or small – need to embed into their operations. As a responsible buyer, how we help our suppliers successfully navigate the pandemic, and ensure continuity of their operations, is as important as any other sustainability metric.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the world of work greatly, including the oil palm industry. Collaborations like these with GAR, where we are sharing the role of increasing awareness among suppliers, are important. Our work is helping to reduce the spread of the virus in the workplace, especially in OSH aspects,” said Yunirwan Gah, National Project Coordinator for Indonesia, ILO. 

Participants in attendance during the webinar.

GAR’s support to suppliers will not stop during this pandemic. Besides extending these COVID-19 specific SMART SPOT sessions to more suppliers, our responsible sourcing team is simultaneously working on initiatives like remote assessments and capacity building.

Interested to implement the learnings in your operations? Download a copy of the webinar session here.

About the writer:
Fauzan Kurniawan is the Head of Supplier Engagement at Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food in Indonesia and has been working for the company since 2017. He has extensive experience in the forestry and palm oil industries. Fauzan graduated from Environmental and Natural Resources Management and received his Master’s from IPB University in 2004.
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