Growing Responsibly: The Official Olam Spices Sustainability Newsletter
Re-Generating the Living World
Monsoon rainfall is being put to good use at our pepper processing facility in Giang Dien, Vietnam. Sixty-two cubic meters of seasonal rain are captured each year. The system collects storm water and rooftop rainfall and sends it to a rainwater pit within the facility. Dirt and other contaminants sink to the bottom of the pit. The water then flows into a pond for storage. This captured and recycled water irrigates 600 pepper vines surrounding the facility, the crop of which will be ready for harvest in three years. Most importantly, this rainwater serves as the only source of irrigation from December to April, reducing the strain on the area’s resources during the dry season.
Presenting on Olam's Waste Initiatives
Sustainability Manager, Claire Loudis, presented at the Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network’s Sustainability Conference in May. Her talk highlighted Olam’s efforts to address waste throughout the product lifecycle and within our Sustainability Framework.
Initiatives so far have focused on reduction. For example, the Soil Nitrogen Efficiency Project (SNEP) works to reduce fertilizer use, and the Olam Supplier Code ensures that pesticides and fertilizers are used safely and efficiently in the fields.
The current push has been to re-incorporate waste for utilization. For example, wastewater at the Firebaugh, CA plant filters through 130 acres of wheat grass back into the aquifer. The grass is then sold as cattle feed. All of Olam’s onion, parsley and garlic waste is converted into feed for California dairies. Garlic and onion tops, too, are recycled by being left in the field and re-integrated into the soil.
At our Vietnam pepper plantation, a study was conducted to identify various, and sometimes surprising, root causes of loss in harvest, threshing, drying and transport. With these insights, we can develop and implement prevention methods to improve our use and reduction of waste.
Farmers and Farming Systems
Supporting Female Farmers
The Organic Cassia Project is helping women farmers increase yields and improve livelihoods. Bui Van Phong grew her cassia yield and income 3-fold with the help of Olam experts in the past year. “I have seen many benefits from the project. Since training with Olam’s staff, I don’t use chemicals, and as a result the environment is much improved, especially the air quality. They also buy trunk and branch bark, so there is no waste.” A neighboring farmer, Nguyễn Văn Huân, experienced the same, “I see much less environmental pollution, our water is protected and farmers like us are not exposed to hazardous chemicals. I have sold almost 10MT organic fresh cassia to Olam at a premium, making good profits.”
Farmer Ly Thị Kieu was skeptical of the project at first. Being Dao, an ethnic minority in Northern Vietnam, she was cautious of being exploited by middlemen for low crop prices. Now a participant, she has improved her economic prospects and plans to increase her plantation.
The women’s experience is drawing attention from other farmers in the area. Says Huân, “I hope the project will be expanded so more farmers are able to join.”
Basil Farmers Model Environmental Leadership
A cooperative basil farm in western Egypt is modeling leadership in farm management. Thirty farmers have the autonomy to make key decisions regarding cultivation, irrigation and fertilizers on the equally distributed land. As a result, sustainability initiatives are self-driven.
For example, the farmers decided to fully transition to drip irrigation by 2022, maximizing water use efficiency in a region traditionally irrigated by Nile flooding. The landowner also supports crop diversity and farmer relationships by rotating a 4-acre wheat crop specifically to feed the families on the farm.
Basil, mint, marjoram, coriander, and more are currently produced on the farm, and there will soon be a dedicated area for sun-drying crops. Currently supplying basil to Olam, the water and loamy soil are perfect for herbs and onions. Olam looks forward to growing the relationship by providing technical, financial and mechanical assistance, as well as AtSource onboarding and Olam Supplier Code training into the future.
Safety Day Protects Employees
Safety Day at our Egypt facility recognized teams with the Best Near Miss, Forklift Driver, Workplace Inspection Commitment, Work Permits, and Proactive Processes. Factory teams presented for a Workplace Inspection Competition, which required workplace safety inspections of their designated factory areas over 5 days, identifying and addressing risks and issues. The friendly competition increased employees’ commitment and awareness towards workplace safety.
Resolved 54 of 66 unsafe conditions identified
Conducted 150 hours of COVID-19 awareness sessions
Identified and prevented 6 near misses
Coalition Sends Help to India Amid COVID-19 Surge
Olam joined a coalition of regional partners in Singapore and India to source and airlift critical oxygen equipment and supplies for the surging COVID-19 crisis in India. “At Olam we are utilizing our international supply chains and a network of partners to help provide timely supplies and relief at scale,” said the CEO of OFI, A. Shekhar, in a press release in May. In just 5 days, 200 oxygen concentrators, 51,000 oximeters, 825 BiPAP machines and 30 tele-ventilators arrived in India from Singapore through the partnerships between Olam, Singapore Airlines, Air India, Kerry Logistics, the Temasek Foundation and more. Throughout India, partners are working non-stop procuring and distributing medical supplies to hospitals and treatment centers. Three hundred oxygen concentrators were donated by Olam directly to the Tamil Nadu government. Additionally, global employees rallied for a donation drive to support relief programs. Efforts to assist in this crisis have been taken to heart at Olam, “As it has been said, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”