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