Are environmental NGOs cowed into silence about the industry most responsible for environmental destruction?

This is what I wrote for The Palm Scribe, a platform focussed on the development of the palm oil industry in Indonesia. 

“Suggest you watch the documentary “Cowspiracy” if you have Netflix,” said the cryptic message from a friend of mine in the palm oil industry.

I took his suggestion, watched the documentary that allegedly exposes the hypocrisy of the world’s largest environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network in attacking industries such as palm oil, pulp and paper and mining for deforestation while steering clear of the biggest culprit of deforestation – animal agriculture.

There, in the documentary, officially called Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, is a lesson and a half for palm oil growers on how to deal with the likes of Greenpeace and the Rainforest Network.

But first a bit about the documentary.

Made in 2014, the thrust of the documentary posits an important question: Since animal agriculture is the main driver of environmental destruction (from the methane emissions, water consumption, deforestation because of land needed to feed and graze cattle) why are these NGOs not going after the cattle industry as they do the palm oil, pulp and paper and mining industries?

Read more here

An actual story of Indonesia’s loss because of the LGBT madness

It says a lot about Indonesia today that when an employee of mine recently quit his job to apply for asylum in Canada on grounds that he’s gay and feels discriminated against in Indonesia, they not only put him on the Protected Person’s list as they usually do to asylum seekers – they classified him as a refugee instead.

He now has to undergo some procedural hoops but it looks like he will be accepted by Canada, who will now gain a productive, caring and professional person. Indonesia, on the other hand has lost someone like him that could have contributed so much to the social and economic development that it so needs.

Z had been working for me for the past five years. He had been a journalist and when he started off at our workplace he was tentative and unsure of himself. He quickly picked up the needed skills and soon became one of our potential consultants.

One of the things he enjoyed most about our office was that we accepted him for what he was. The other was the Personal Development Fund we had for consultants who completed each year of service. They could use the fund, that amounted to a month’s salary to develop themselves personally, not professionally. We do this because we feel that people who have an active life outside the confines of the office make the best consultants as they would then have new perspectives, knowledge and experience to bring to the table.

Z mae the most of the personal development fund, traveling to Europe and Egypt with it. But his wanderlust wasn’t slaked by these forays and in 2015 he applied for a Sabbatical to travel and work overseas. He applied and received a Work and Travel visa from Australia and spent about a year traveling and working. He then crossed the Atlantic and went to the US.

Overseas, he got something that he could not find in Indonesia – not only tolerance but acceptance of the fact that he was gay. Then, circumstances intervened and for family reasons he had to come back to Indonesia. h began to work for us again and this time around his traveling had contributed to his experiences and world view, making him a much stronger professional.

He had become so good at what he did that I could delegate tasks to him and not worry about the quality. And when a client needed help in one of the most remote and difficult parts of Indonesia, working under very stressful and demanding conditions where he had to advice and push back against unreasonable demands, I felt comfortable sending him to lead the team.

He was to stay there for close to a year with only short R&R breaks in between. In his stay he had to endure sniper fire, labor strikes and violent destruction of property directed at our clients. He also lived through a mud slide and flooding that destroyed parts of the work site, even it was 2,300 meters above sea level and in remote mountains.

There were times when he felt it was too much but he bore it all with good grace and turned in a stellar performance that not only won the clients’ hearts and praise but also won for us a prestigious regional award for crisis management.

By any count Z was an asset to us. if I had more people like him I would be able to grow our company much faster, provide more jobs and even better working conditions to our employees. If Indonesia had more people like him we would be able to attract more investors who need skilled professionals to propel its national development.

But we have now lost him to Canada. When explaining his move Z told us that his one wish when he first joined us was to travel, travel and travel. Working at our workplace allowed him to do that with the Personal Development Fund and our decision to allow him to go on Sabbatical allowed him to travel more.

Paradoxically, however, all that travel made him want to settle down more. Now all he wants is to have a partner, kids, house – and a dog. This is something that most of us want but just because he has a different sexual orientation he no longer feels safe or welcome because of the rising intolerance, not least to the LGBT community that has become so shrill lately in Indonesia, his own country.

He feels so persecuted that he is willing to uproot himself to seek asylum in a county that he has not been before. I applaud his courage and hope he finds everything he is looking for in Canada. He’s Canada’s gain and our loss.

What has become of you of late Indonesia?

Note: For Z’s account of his adventures since landing in Canada check out this link: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/92959508/posts/3221

 

Two sides of IDX head Tito Sulistio in balcony collapse incident

Is Indonesian Exchange President Director Tito Sulistio a callused, professional devoid of any empathy or a caring man of action who responded selflessly and bravely to the disaster when the balcony of the stock exchange building collapsed yesterday?

Well, it depends on which aspect you see and base your impression of the man on.

If you see how he reacted to reporter’s questions, as in the videoclip below that went viral on Twitter, you’d probably come to the conclusion that he’s insensitive, and a bit of a self-perceived macho kinda guy.

That was the conclusion you’d come to when watching the video. The almost defensive insistence that the trading system is unaffected against a few injuries, gives one the impression that he doesn’t care about the injured victims and all he’s concerned with is that the trading resumes. Visually he had a couple of buttons undone on his shirt and a gelang (bracelet) that is more associated with preman than professionals (The parking attendandant at Beautika on Jalan Moestopo sports one as well).

But there is more than meets the eye with Tito.

Apparently he was looking a bit dishevelled in the interview because he had been busy helping carry victims to safety and, according to the Twitter user below, had had his jacket on but had used it to wipe the blood from the would of one of the victims. So it seems that his unkempt look came because he was too busy attending to the victims rather than his looks.

So there we have it: the appearance and the reality. Which should public office holders prioritize in emergency situations?

Both, is the answer. The reason is that the thousands and maybe millions of people out there who have no easy and thorough access to information will judge Tito and the IDX based on what he says, and how he says it, to reporters. They will see only what is on a videoclip or television segment and react from there.

On this score Tirto and the IDX seems ill prepared. He should have expressed sympathy for the victims, explained to the best of his knowledge what happened, why and what he plans to do about the situation. This is called the 3Rs of crisis communications – Regret, Reason and Remedy. Anything less than three elements in a crisis-like situation and the audience is likely to come to the wrong conclusions about your motives, sensitivity and ability to bring things under control.

The visual cues the spokesperson sends during his media interview, even door-stop ones, are also important. If he has to stop to speak to the media he should be trained to ensure that he looks composed and in control. He may roll up his sleeves but a couple of buttons undone sends the wrong signal. And that bracelet. Tirto needs to ask himself what signs that sends out, even in non-crisis-like situations.

Some would say that it’s not fair to expect him to be mindful of being media savvy in such a turbulent moment, but hie is in public office and during moments of crisis or disasters the public needs people like him to stand forth and point the way. It is not fair but that is one of the demands of high office. Its not fair but its life. Like it or not, one has to deal with it.

Dumb and Dumber: Water, Water everywhere and Jakartans should be thankful for it

In my old age I had thought I had left hatred behind.

You know, that visceral bile-like feeling that makes you want to rage, to laah out at the stupidity before you.

I was wrong. Now when I see the faces of Governor Anies Baswedan or his Deputy Sandi Uno, or hear thw utter rubbish, I am reminded how i haven’t been able to suppress my utter contempt in the fave of such stupidity.

The latest bile-inducing statement from Dumber Sandi is that GOd has favored Jakartans with rain so we should take that as a blessing.

All this in the same breath as saying neither he or Dumb have any solutions regarding the flooding of Jakarta.

Today there was a heavy rain, the main thoroughfare Jalan Sudirman is severely flooded and even my house at Senopati, which is considered at a high elevation, was inudated by 20cm of floodwaters.

How, oh how, if a God does exist did she create such a manifestation of stupidity?

Liputan6.com, Jakarta – Wakil Gubernur DKI Jakarta Sandiaga Uno menilai banjir dan genangan yang mengepung di beberapa titik akibat fenomena alam yang tidak bisa dihindari. Karena itu, dia meminta masyarakat untuk menerimanya.

“Kita enggak bisa melawan alam, kualat kalau ngelawan alam. Jangan bilang ini pasti surut atau banjirnya cuma segini. Ini adalah fenomena alam,” ujar Sandiaga Uno di Balai Kota, Senin (11/12/2017).

Menurut pria yang biasa disapa Sandi itu,hujan deras yang mengguyur ibu kota hingga dua jam lebih ini justru menjadi nikmat harus disyukuri.

“Allah lagi ngirimin hujan. Kalau kita punya sistem yang baik, hujan justru harus menjadi berkah bagi kita,” ucap politisi Partai Gerindra itu.

Dumb and Dumber: From Alexis to 4Play

Not since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels created the characters of lloyd and Harry in Dumb and Dumber has there been anyone as stupid as the celluloid characters as the present Gakbener Anis an and his deputy Sandi.

Jakartans who had been used to the former Governor Ahok talk sense and being straight forward have been marvelling at the amount of nonsense that has issued from the mouths of the City’s own Dumb and Dumber.

Ok, Lloyd and Harry had better hats but Anies and Sandi have their own head gear too. And they certainly can’t beat Anies and Ini in the dumber sweepstakes.

The remarkable thing is that just when you thought they could not get lower in IQ, they excelled themselves and set new records. Today’s statement on the Brothel Once Known as Alexis takes the cake.

Alexis, apparently has repurposed itself into a sports complex and its changed its name to — wait for it– 4 Play. (I shit you not! see the clip from Kompas TV below)

Asked to comment on this development Dumber, aka Sandi, explained that people should not think of Alexis’s rebirth as 4 Play.

“They may want to repent,” he said. “If this is the case then they should be allowed to do so.”

He added that before as Alexis the established depended on entertainment as its business but now as 4 Play it was probably based on lifestyle and sports.

How is all of this possible? In the real world this would have been impossible because:

  1. The news readers would not have been able to keep a straight face when reading the news
  2. The reporters would have killed themselves with laughter when Sandi so ingenuously mentioned the name 4 Play and seemingly thinking that lay meant something to do with sports.
  3. No person with some education from an English-speaking country (Sandi graduated from Wichita University in Kansas, the same state as where Dorothy from Wizard of Oz started off on her journey to Munchkinland) could be so clueless as not to spot the double entendre in the name 4 Play.

But all this has come to pass. The worst thing about this incident is that we have four more years of Dumb and Dumber to listen to.

Maybe we should all go and work out at 4 Play instead?

 

JWT’s decision to tap a PR professional to head advertising and digital agencies – good or bad idea

Unspun thinks its the best idea since tempe but then again, he’s biased to the PR profession.

But JWT has taken a huge step in appointing former Ogilvy PR and Pulse boss Marianne Adamardatine to head its operations in Indonesia, that includes digital agency Mirium.

If it works it will open the doors to lots of PR professionals and possibly usher in a new way of communicating not dominated by the advertising mindset. If it fails, the I-told-you-so guys will have a field day.

Will it work or won’t it? What do communicators out there think?

For more information on the appointment go to my posting in the Maverick blog:

 

Finally a PR person to head a major advertising outfit

These are interesting times for the marketing communications industry and for public relations.

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Like all companies in this area, JWT have been experimenting with how to cope with disruption and media convergence. Their answer is an interesting one in Indonesia: appoint a Public Relations professional to head their team in the country.

Campaign has reported that JWT has appointed Marianne Adamardatine, who has led Ogilvy PR and Pulse for many years, and who was recently appointed by Ogilvy to be their Chief Growth Officer, to head JWT indonesia.

She “will be responsible for expanding the company’s capabilities in strategic brand building, digital transformation, customer experience, marketing automation and commerce activation, as well as driving thought leadership and building business engagement with C-suite clients to initiate integrated campaigns,” according to the company. This means she will oversee the advertising and digital operations, Mirium.

We believe this is the first time that someone from a PR, rather than an advertising background, has been appointed to the top position to a major advertising outfit…read more

The call to boycott Traveloka

I posted this in the Maverick blog today:

 

A snarky comment on the eagerness of the mob to boycott brands at every slight whiff of suspicion

 

Deliberate misunderstandings and righteous piety seems to be the order of the day in Indonesia’s poisoned and acrimonious political settingThe latest flap involves a call to boycott travel site Traveloka and uninstall their mobile app following a walkout by detractors when newly installed Governor Anies Baswedan delivered the keynote speech at Canisius College’s 90th anniversary on November 11.

The walkout was led by well-known composer Ananda Sukarlan who objected Anies’s politicking methods to win the gubernatorial election.  The walkout generated lots of publicity and social media chatter and somewhere out of this mess t someone somewhere gan to spread information that one of Traveloka’s founders, Derianto Kusuma, had walked out on Anies together with Sukarlan. Derianto had been slotted to receive a recognition award from the College.

From there things snowballed an soon a “movement” was formed where its supporters asked other netizens to uninstall the Traveloka app on their mobile phones as a sign of protest against Derianto’s action.

The fact of the matter, however, was that Derianto, as explained by Traveloka in a press release, was unable to attend the event as he was traveling overseas. So he couldn’t have joined the walkout.

read more

Where would we be placed?

I suppose one should congratulate The Hoffman Agency for opening shop in Indonesia.

They have a curious way of evaluating how they differentiate themselves in this market though, best exemplified by this chart of theirs:

In their reckoning, until they came around clients in Indonesia had to choose between bureaucratic, international-standard agencies or high touch (whatever that means) local-standard agencies.

Unspun supposes that he should take offence because Maverick is not included in their analysis.

But then again, if we are included the top right quadrant in the chart wouldn’t be exclusively occupied by Hoffman then, would it?

Adding a role at The Palm Scribe

Recently I added another role to my LinkedIn account and have since been getting lots of well wishes but also a number of concerned questions on whether I had stopped working at Maverick to become advisor at The Palm Scribe.

So here’s a note of explanation to the concerned and the curious.

Palm Scribe Logo

The first thing to point out is that the new title does not change anything at Maverick.

I continue to work there but because I’ve been fortunate to have found a very capable team who are able to take over much of what I do, I have decided to take Fridays off to reflect and have some me time; as well as to take on more of a mentor and advisory rather than operational role.

At the end of the day, however, this is a people and relationship business and if the clients need me I’m always there for them.

In the meantime, however, I’ve taken on the role as advisor in a platform run under the auspices of Maverick, The Palm Scribe.

What is The Palm Scribe?

In short The Palm Scribe is a platform that supports the development of the Indonesian palm oil industry through constructive journalism.

Like all elevator pitches, that description is meant to pique rather than provide a comprehensive explanation.

So if you’re piqued here’s the reasoning behind The Palm Scribe.

To start with, consider the palm oil industry.

It is complex and controversial because it is the frontline of many opposing issues: Sustainability vs environmental destruction, conversation vs deforestation, development vs conservation, East versus West, developed vs developing countries, palm oil vs soy, people vs big business, NGOs vs planters…

Strong opinions are expressed on all sides but the playing field is a bit uneven as its tilted in favor of the Western/Green advocates. There are several reasons why this is so.

  1. The Western players are more sophisticated in lobbying and communication techniques. They take their communications seriously and are more able to put their side of the story across. Their Asian/African counterparts do not take communications seriously and are usually outflanked.
  2. NGOs are social media savvy. They are hungrier because they have to earn their funding and as a result they are more innovative and creative in using paid, earned, shared and owned media to make themselves known. Many of them also realize that to persuade is to appeal to the emotions first and foremost an they succeed admirably.
  3. The mainstream media is devastated by falling readership and revenue. As a result they have few journalists and resources left to raise the right questions and issues and to ask the right questions of and hold accountable the policymakers, players and NGOs. Reactive journalism, click baiting stories and cut and paste reporting happens more often than we would want them to be.
  4. Most journalists think that palm oil players are slimeballs because they often do not act like they are open, accessible or accountable. Combined with #3, they are disposed to carry any attacks on the palm oil players prominently and tag on their responses (if they get around to issuing one at all in a timely manner) later in the story. By then the damage is done.
  5. The palm oil players themselves are bad communicators. Many of them are owned and run by business people more accustomed to deal making in backrooms than realizing that public opinion can affect their businesses. Others are run by families where bloodlines rather than competencies determine who is the decision maker. The result is that there are almost no oil palm player that can communicate in a persuasive, authentic and credible manner.
  6. Ineffective committees and trade associations. Apart from Malaysia that has quite an active lobbying and communications effort, their Indonesian counterparts are more mired in bureaucracy and pleasing all stakeholders rather than projecting a favorable image for the industry.
  7. Most importantly, however, because of all the elements mentioned above the public discourse on palm oil has gone askew. There is a world shortage of food and in edible oil that will be more acute with time. Of all the oil crops, palm oil is the most efficient oil to help address this shortage. As such you would think that the discourse on palm oil should be on how to make the industry strong, viable and sustainable. Unfortunately, however, most of the conversation and discourse on palm oil is about violations to conservation and sustainability standards (some arbitrarily advanced by this body or that) and the wrongdoings of the players. Something needs to be done about this if palm oil is indeed the crop for the future.

Having helped some palm oil companies manage attacks agains them as well as helping to tell their side of the story when it coms to sustainability issues, one of the things I realized is that many of the palm players are so traumatized by what they perceive is an antagonistic media/NGO environment that they do not know what to do. So many of them opt to keep their heads below the parapet instead. This does not serve them well because every negative story or article gets accumulated in Google and when investors and others want to find out about you, guess where they go to first?

Out of all this the idea of The Palm Scribe was born. Instead of fault-finding journalism we would adopt the principles of Constructive Journalism (a concept I personally poo pooed until I started to research more about it).

We would cover the palm oil industry, raise the issues that ned to be raised, ask the right questions. We would focus on the solutions the companies adopt or put in place in response to allegations of wrong doing. And we would also provide them a “non-editorial” space on our website to showcase their CSR, sustainability and community engagement efforts as well as space of their announcements and press releases.

In going into this we were aware that the success of such a platform rests on its credibility, judged by the quality of it content. As such, we scouted around and was fortunate to be able to enlist the talents of Bhimanto Suwasteyo, a veteran Indonesian journalist who has worked for AFP for years and one of the founding editors of The Jakarta Globe to generate our content. He works with Wicaksono, better known as Ndoro Kakung, who is a very respected name in social media circles, as well as a team that supports the content generation in the platform.

On the question of credibility, some might question whether a platform run by a PR consultancy can be trusted not to spin things. To them I can only say that if they understand what PR truly does they would understand that it is about getting companies and clients to communicate authentically and credibly. You cannot do that if your words are not matched with your actions.

Will The Palm Scribe work? Who knows. We live in an age of disruption where old ways of doing things no longer work and nobody can say with great certainty what does and what does not. We at Maverick think that this is worth a try because if we succeed we could potentially change how companies in controversial industries can communicate.

If you are still interested in The Palm Scribe, write to me at ong[at]maverick.co.id or check out its website.

Alexis: right decision for the wrong reasons

Alexis almost certainly has prostitution as one of its services and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is right to close it down if morality is his kind of thing.

But shutting it down based on press reports rather than on hard evidence is worrying, as it sets a bad precedence of executive action based on suspicion.

What this means is that in future all the Jakarta government has to do is suspect that you are guilty of a violation to impose sanctions on you.

And the basis of their suspicion? Media reports.

While there are many responsible and professional journalists out there who would document and recheck their facts before going to print, there. are many more still who are slack, naive and easily manipulated or can be bought or intimidated.

This being the case, it is not difficult for anyone to engineer negative stories against any business or party. And given the depleted ranks of journalists because of falling ad revenues it is easy for even implausible stories to be copy pasted onto other publications, amplifying the negativity.

With Anies’ action to deny the renewal of Alexis based on mere press resports rather than, say, an investigation by City Hall officers or the Police, we have entered the dubious territory of Kangaroo Courts.

We’d better hop onto trying to right this wrong before we end up in Anies’s pocket.

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