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A profoundly memorable year in palm oil

Posted: Aug 29, 2019 4 minute read Yafet Sanjaya 0 Likes

What started as a four-month internship for experience grew into a deeply engaging year-long affair into palm oil, when I decided to extend my internship with Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food in 2018. As my internship with the Group Corporate Communications team here draws to a close this August, I want to share my experience, especially with those who might be looking for a job in the oil palm industry, to help you better understand what to expect.

My duties included managing the company’s social media handles, conducting both offline and online research on issues in palm oil industry such as biodiesel which I then wrote about on our blog, preparing for media events and even directly liaising with national media journalists.

The Group Corporate Communications team at our R&D Centre in Marunda in December 2018.

Together with my teammates, we tackled many challenges – from trying to correct wrong perceptions about palm oil, to addressing false allegations about our waste management processes. For a millennial like me, who at first was quite unfamiliar with palm oil industry, these encounters helped me to better understand and support the sustainable palm oil industry for its numerous benefits and advantages.

You might be thinking that my support for palm oil industry is because I’ve worked here and as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” But that is not at all true. My support is mainly because I have witnessed the positive impact of palm oil and the Company’s efforts in achieving sustainability. It is unfortunate that good practices often remain unnoticed as the industry still remains shrouded in controversy. The naysayers do not realise that real change takes time and effort to materialise – and our people have made many efforts over the last decade, in areas such as peat rehabilitation and fire prevention.

I have learnt that supply chain sustainability is not just the responsibility of producers, and that each player in the palm oil value chain has a part to play. For example, even with our best efforts to provide assistance and guidance through GSEP (GAR Social and Environmental Policy), workshops and training, the actual execution of initiatives still lies with the suppliers.

Is agriculture boring and outdated?

I also found out that the number of young people interested in the agricultural industry is now decreasing. According to Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik), over a period of ten years (2003-2013), the number of farming households decreased by five million. This is because younger generations tend to have a poor image about the agricultural industry. Most believe agriculture is out-of-date and too boring.

From my experience, they could not be more wrong. Today’s agricultural industry, especially in Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food, uses sophisticated technology, big data and even AI in its production. The industry still provides the largest number of employment opportunities in Indonesia, accounting for millions of jobs directly and indirectly. Personally, I think the palm oil industry is genuinely fascinating for its remarkable benefit: being the most productive vegetable oil that provides food for the world!

It is impossible to count all of the valuable experiences I have had during my internship in this large organisation, so I will highlight three of my favourite moments during my time here:

1.“Learning from the Experts” in R&D Marunda, Bekasi

“Learning from the Experts” event at our R&D Centre in Marunda. I’m on the extreme right.

I got my first chance as a layperson to see how food technology experts play a significant role in developing various food products with palm oil as their key ingredient. One of their activities is developing healthy and nutritious palm oil-based products. During the programme, I was able to see many cooking demos performed by famous chefs, one of whom being the celebrity chef Nina Bertha. I also had the opportunity to taste various kinds of food from bread, cake, chocolate, to ice cream, which all can be made with palm oil as a key ingredient. [Editor’s note: Obviously a tough day in the office!]

2. International Women’s Day 2019 in Jakarta

The event was dedicated to the women working in the Company. As a participant, I became more aware that gender equality is essential in the professional world. Furthermore, equality should not only exist between different genders, but also among different ethnicities, races, cultures and religions. As one of the biggest palm oil suppliers in Indonesia, Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food strives to be inclusive.

International Women’s Day event for employees.

3. Group Corporate Communications Annual Meeting in Singapore

The event was held by the Group Corporate Communications team as a part of a twice-a-year routine to discuss strategic plans, and to broaden our team members’ knowledge through topical training workshops. I had the chance to travel to Singapore and meet team members based there, and contribute my ideas over the three-day meeting. The event made it possible for me to learn about team planning, and receive training about branding and storytelling for the Company delivered by Anita Neville, Senior Vice-President of Group Corporate Communications.

Personally, working as an intern in Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food has been great fun, and I am deeply grateful for the trust and all the valuable experience that I have gained.

For more information about career opportunities in our Company, click here.

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