Throughout its 100-year history, the Socfin Group, an international European-owned company specialising in the rubber and palm oil industry, says it has always strived to develop a responsible and sustainable approach to business. This includes creating and sharing wealth, enabling long-term investments in local economies and developing new skills locally. And Cambodia, where the company manages rubber plantations, is no exception.
To that end, Socfin Cambodia has created a specific department dedicated to corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities called the Sustainability Department. It covers activities such as environmental protection, community outreach, the health and safety of the workers and ensuring well-being in the company’s villages to give a few examples, says Jef Boedt, Socfin Cambodia’s general manager.
“Our main CSR projects such as the support to local development, protection of environment, active engagement with the local Bunong indigenous communities or the provision of quality social services and infrastructures for our employees are thus part of our company’s DNA and are at the roots of our presence in Cambodia,” Boedt says. “I like to see our company as a dynamic engine of growth for the Kingdom and as a model of responsible business introducing new standards and best-practices for other local companies.”
The company’s CSR projects are not designed as one-time initiatives but are meant to be carried out in the long-term. Boedt explains that the company’s initiatives cover, among other things, supporting local development, environmental protection and engagement with the local Bunong indigenous communities . The projects are on-going and their activities evolve through time.
Would it be possible to add a quick mention on activities related to support to local development projects (in relations with the title) ?
In terms of its engagement with the indigenous Bunong communities, Socfin Cambodia has played an active role in ensuring the protection of their communal lands. Integral to the Bunong traditional beliefs are their sacred forests, spirit land and cemeteries.
“These places are scattered within the concessions and several measures have been undertaken in order to identify and preserve these culturally important sites,” Boedt says. “During the development phase of our plantation, our dedicated community liaison department collaborated with the traditional representatives of the different communities to map, preserve and mark these areas. As a result, Socfin Cambodia is today protecting over 350 hectares of these lands within its plantations for seven different communities.”
Boedt adds that some communities are now able to apply for the communal land registration of these areas to get an official recognition of their importance and ensure their protection for future generations.
“These are, to our humble knowledge, the only sacred places which have been mapped, identified and preserved in the area,” Boedt says.