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David Immanuel Sihombing - Cluster Procurement Manager, Commodities, SEA

I have not always been as concerned about the environment as I am today. I only paid brief attention to environmental issues, until, that is, at the age of seventeen, something happened that would change my view quite dramatically.

David Immanuel Sihombing

In 2008, the river burst its banks and catastrophic floods hit Jakarta, inundating our houses under several metres of water.

Luckily, my family and I all made it out safely. When the waters finally receded and we managed to get back into the house, I was shocked to find rubbish floating in my living room. It was the wake-up call I needed to reconnect with the impact our actions can have upon the planet – and I’ve been involved in environmental activism ever since.

Unilever Bright Future

That concern is one of the main reasons I joined my current employer, Unilever. Here, I am able to make a real impact on sustainability and environmental protection – both in my role as a Procurement Operation Manager for Commodities and as a volunteer inside and outside work.

Unilever has an excellent environmental programme called Bright Future. Focusing on deforestation and climate change, the programme unites and amplifies the efforts of a growing community of people who believe it is possible to build a world where everyone lives well and sustainably.

When you take action as a community, rather than as individuals, the level of impact you can have increases exponentially.

In 2015, I successfully applied to become a Bright Future representative and now act as an ambassador for the programme in Indonesia. From planting trees in coastal areas to raising awareness of environmental issues in schools, ambassadors work to make a positive difference to the planet’s future.

As a Bright Future ambassador, I learned three key things:

Knowledge is key

A major reason for people not taking action on the environment is a lack of knowledge. As a Bright Future representative, I saw that if you help people to understand an issue like climate change then they will be much more inclined to do something about it.

Small actions matter

Even the smallest actions can make a big difference. Some of the pupils in a school I recently visited made a commitment not to litter. This may seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but their choice inspired lots of others to follow suit and before long the school’s student organisation was running an anti-littering campaign.

Harness communities

When you take action as a community, rather than as individuals, the level of impact you can have increases exponentially. Community projects are a fantastic way to create interest, engagement and better results.

Once we are conscious of the impact we can have on our planet, the opportunity for sustainable action becomes apparent.

After the floods struck, I was inspired to set up a work program that married small-scale environmental action with community-based entrepreneurship. The result was the Garuda Youth Community, a scheme that saw mothers and their children engage in environmentally-friendly and entrepreneurial activities like transforming waste into tradeable handicrafts.

I was also humbled to be chosen to represent Indonesia for One Young World, a UK-based not-for-profit that gathers together the brightest young people from around the globe and empowers them to create positive change.

Attending conferences on climate change, food security and other environmental issues, I’ve been able to build valuable connections with like-minded people from all over the world.

Both Bright Future and One Young World are helping me to make a real impact on the ground too, informing my day-to-day actions in procurement at Unilever.

Sustainability is one of Unilever’s fundamental business drivers and plays a hugely important role in our procurement strategy. As somebody who is responsible for managing supply chain operations, I’m able to make a significant positive difference to farmers, to food security and to the environment as a whole.

It makes me extremely happy to see that my passion is shared by the rest of my team. I’m not sure if any of them have had the life-changing experience I went through all those years ago – but I can see that all of them are as committed as I am to making a positive difference, in their roles and beyond.

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