Dy­namic Duo

A re­cently an­nounced part­ner­ship be­tween Starboard and Siam Ce­ment Group (SCG) will see the two com­pa­nies work to­gether to ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - S NAPSHOTS - CHEYENNE HOLLIS

And while on the sur­face it may seem like an un­likely pair­ing, the duo ac­tu­ally shares a com­mon vision.

Starboard’s com­mit­ment to the en­vi­ron­ment is as well known these days as its surf­boards. It was one of the first com­pa­nies to be­come car­bon past pos­i­tive, a com­mit­ment that will see the busi­ness balance its cur­rent car­bon foot­print as well as the foot­print cre­ated dur­ing Starboard’s en­tire 25-year his­tory.

The world of stand-up pad­dle boards, wind­surf boards and other wa­ter sports prod­ucts may seem miles away from SCG’s core busi­ness of con­crete, build­ing ma­te­rial and chem­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing, but the pair did recog­nise each other as in­dus­try lead­ers. When dis­cus­sions took place, both sides saw a de­sire to find new ways where they could in­no­vate sus­tain­abil­ity. This led to the sign­ing of an MOU.

“The part­ner­ship de­vel­oped very or­gan­i­cally. The di­a­logue is very open. We spent a lot of time ex­plor­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and how we could learn from one an­other. The scope of the agree­ment is a tes­ta­ment

to that,” Ms Tas­min Chilcott, Starboard Eco Project Co­or­di­na­tor, says. “When you think about a large cor­po­ra­tion, the stereo­type is that they are very rigid and slow mov­ing, but SCG wasn’t like that at all. This has al­lowed us to cre­ate a very mean­ing­ful part­ner­ship.”

When Starboard and SCG looked at build­ing a part­ner­ship, the key was to find a holis­ti­cal ap­proach where they could con­trib­ute at all lev­els and in places where it was pos­si­ble to make a real dif­fer­ence. Ac­cord­ing to Ms Chilcott, the cur­rent ar­range­ment pro­vides both com­pa­nies with a chance to build some­thing mean­ing­ful for the en­vi­ron­ment as op­posed to a quick fix or press op­por­tu­nity.

“I think we both un­der­stand the chal­lenges fac­ing the en­vi­ron­ment re­quire en­gage­ment and a will­ing­ness to ded­i­cate re­sources,” Ms Chilcott states. “In­no­vat­ing sus­tain­abil­ity re­quires team­work. Even to­gether, it won’t solve every­thing. How­ever, re­duc­ing our car­bon foot­print and virgin ma­te­rial us­age is im­por­tant. And if we can help SCG set the stan­dard in this re­gard, our be­lief is that other com­pa­nies will fol­low suit. It will also al­low us to gain more vis­i­bil­ity for our en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­forts, some­thing we hope oth­ers see and are in­spired by.”

Green plans

One area SCG is look­ing to be­come in­volved with is Starboard’s man­grove tree plant­ing ef­forts. A sin­gle man­grove tree can ab­sorb up to one tonne of car­bon over 20 years. The com­pany cre­ated the Starboard Man­grove Project and works with World View in­ter­na­tional (WIF) to plant trees at the Thor Hey­er­dahl cli­mate park in Myan­mar.

“SCG is con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent op­tions for plant­ing trees, but the Starboard Man­grove Project with World­view In­ter­na­tional Foun­da­tion is some­thing they are very in­ter­ested in,” Ms Chilcott notes. “Even if they de­cide to go with an­other plant­ing project to offset car­bon emis­sions, we are still able to share what we have learned through our own ex­pe­ri­ences to en­sure they cre­ate some­thing with a long-term pos­i­tive im­pact.”

Starboard has been very ac­tive in plant­ing man­grove trees to offset their own car­bon out­put. They also do the same when spon­sor­ing events or com­pe­ti­tions. The com­pany will work

with event or­gan­is­ers to ab­sorb the emis­sions of elec­tric us­age and those trav­el­ling to at­tend. In ad­di­tion to tak­ing car­bon diox­ide out of the en­vi­ron­ment, man­grove trees cre­ate a healthy ocean habi­tat for several species.

The man­grove tree plant­ing is only one part of the agree­ment be­tween Starboard and SCG. Several other ar­eas have been iden­ti­fied as po­ten­tial syn­ergy spots be­tween the two com­pa­nies.

“The part­ner­ship with SCG mo­ti­vates us to ex­plore all av­enues. We want to keep push­ing what is pos­si­ble. We see op­por­tu­ni­ties to work di­rectly with their sci­en­tists to de­velop new ma­te­ri­als for our boards that al­low us to re­duce our re­liance on virgin ma­te­ri­als. That’s ex­cit­ing for us,” Ms Chilcott pro­claims. “They can share knowl­edge in terms of what’s pos­si­ble on how we can im­prove in build­ing our prod­ucts.”

No spec­i­fi­ca­tions have been made yet as Starboard and SCG in­ves­ti­gate what can be done re­gard­ing pro­duc­tion. This in­cludes list­ing ev­ery el­e­ment in all Starboard boards in­clud­ing the per­for­mance stan­dards they have to meet. Ms Chilcott hopes that to­gether they can elim­i­nate some virgin plas­tic us­age and in­clude more re­cy­cled prod­ucts in fu­ture Starboard re­leases.

“Our goal is to be 100 per­cent sus­tain­able. We aren’t there yet, but work­ing with SCG can help us get closer to this dream. All of our boards use re­new­able ma­te­ri­als, but find­ing ways to in­cor­po­rate more with­out sac­ri­fic­ing per­for­mance is im­por­tant to us,” Ms Chilcott re­ports. “Hav­ing a part­ner like SCG gives us more free­dom to find so­lu­tions and test them out much faster than on our own. A lot of what we do is now is trial and er­ror, so hav­ing that SCG ex­per­tise is an in­cred­i­ble as­set.”

The part­ner­ship is multi-faceted and not sim­ply re­lated to the ac­tiv­i­ties of each com­pany. For ex­am­ple, SCG will be con­tribut­ing to Starboard’s ef­forts with the Am­bas­sador of the Planet en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

“Am­bas­sador of the Planet is an­other as­pect of the part­ner­ship we’re ex­cited about. By work­ing with SCG, they can help us get the cur­ricu­lum to more chil­dren who will now have the op­por­tu­nity to learn about sus­tain­abil­ity and car­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment,” Ms Chilcott says. “We are cur­rently adapt­ing the cur­ricu­lum so it is tai­lored to a Thai au­di­ence with re­lat­able ex­am­ples. SCG will then as­sist us with rolling out the pro­gram through their connection­s with schools and youth groups.”

The way for­ward

Starboard’s de­sire to be a leader in both sus­tain­abil­ity and qual­ity is well known, but Ms Chilcott ad­mits it takes re­sources and knowl­edge that can be dif­fi­cult to ob­tain. On the other hand, SCG has both these, but ben­e­fits from prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence to im­prove its sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts.

“The flow of knowl­edge goes both ways. We can share in­for­ma­tion on things like the man­grove plant­ing and sus­tain­abil­ity ac­tiv­i­ties that SCG may not have ac­cess to. Mean­while, we have a chance to learn new meth­ods and cre­ate new so­lu­tions with their help,” Ms Chilcott states. “By com­ing to­gether, we are stronger, quicker and have the abil­ity to de­velop more pow­er­ful so­lu­tions to help the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Look­ing ahead, both com­pa­nies be­lieve there is an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate stan­dards and prac­tices other com­pa­nies can du­pli­cate. While the MOU is be­tween SCG and Starboard, Ms Chilcott sees no rea­son that more busi­nesses can’t be in­cluded as­sum­ing they share the same vision and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“The agree­ment is truly ope­nended in terms of what we can do and ac­com­plish. Sus­tain­abil­ity is a part of who we are as a com­pany and it is also very im­por­tant to SCG. This is why we want to share every­thing, not just with each other, but to any­one who may be in­ter­ested,” Ms Chilcott de­tails. “Even if busi­nesses aren’t in­ter­ested in work­ing with us di­rectly, they can still utilise what we have learned. When it comes to help­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, there is no rea­son to keep in­for­ma­tion a se­cret.”

Starboard hopes to get things started as soon as pos­si­ble and is al­ready work­ing closely with SCG. Long-term, the goal is to find and de­velop new ways to re­duce both com­pa­nies’ car­bon foot­print and re­liance on virgin ma­te­ri­als.

Ms Chilcott recog­nises the fact that other com­pa­nies may see the is­sues fac­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and may not know where to start with their own sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts. The key is not to be over­whelmed by the size and scope of the is­sue. Instead, ac­tion should cen­tre on small, pos­i­tive changes they can make at home.

In fact, this is how Starboard started its jour­ney to­wards sus­tain­abil­ity. The com­pany took small steps, such as elim­i­nat­ing plas­tic us­age in the of­fice and pro­vid­ing veg­e­tar­ian lunches to staff, be­fore tack­ling larger is­sues. Even­tu­ally so­lar pan­els were in­stalled at its Bangkok head­quar­ters to help re­duce its foot­print through pro­duc­tion and elec­tric­ity us­age.

“The focus should be on tak­ing lit­tle steps. Things like ban­ning straws in the of­fice or in­stalling wa­ter dis­pensers may not seem big, but can get the ball rolling. It helps de­velop habits and makes peo­ple re­alise change is pos­si­ble,” Ms Chilcott points out. “From there, it be­comes eas­ier to build ef­forts and try more am­bi­tious ac­tiv­i­ties. If it wasn’t for our small, early steps in sus­tain­abil­ity, we wouldn’t have been able to ac­com­plish things such as be­ing car­bon past pos­i­tive.”

PHOTO: STARBOARD

PHOTO: STARBOARD

Above left: Starboard in­stalled so­lar pan­els at its Bangkok head­quar­ters as part of its ef­forts to be car­bon past pos­i­tive. Above Starboard and SCG signed an MOU that will see the two firms in­ves­ti­gate a range of sus­tain­abil­ity op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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