DSM establishes a DSM Senior Fellow in Partnership and Sustainability at the Singapore Management University (SMU) through a S$200,000 (US$148,905.63) grant.
Yannick Foing, Senior Regional Manager, Asia Pacific – Nutrition Improvement Program, DSM tells Food News International more about the collaboration, his views on tri-sector collaboration and efforts in benefiting the Singapore community.
FNI: How is the DSM Senior Fellow in Partnership and Sustainability reflective of the organization’s approach towards education?
Foing: DSM sponsored the Fellowship, but the appointment was made by SMU.
The objectives of the Fellowship are to advance knowledge, foster best practices, influence policies, facilitate networks and promote partnerships in sustainable development.
We believe that education plays a key role in influencing the future leaders of society, so partnering with the university was a logical step for us to make an impact in encouraging cross-sector thinking.
We firmly believe that the cohorts of SMU’s Master of Tri-Sector Collaboration program will play a critical role in enabling cross-sector collaboration, in order to meet today’s greatest sustainability challenges.
In fact, this sponsorship is an excellent example of cross-sector partnership.
Our sponsorship also attracted a matching grant of the same amount by the Singapore government to SMU, who will in turn manage these funds to advance the theory and practice of sustainable initiatives through teaching and research programs.
We have chosen to partner with SMU as it is the only university to offer a Masters’ program that focuses on understanding the complexities of collaboration between government, civil society and business.
FNI: What is meant by tri-sector collaborations? Why did DSM choose to invest in this?
Foing: Tri-sector collaboration is the partnership of businesses, governments and civil society to address critical challenges that are impacting society as a whole.
These issues are complex, requiring coordinated efforts among organizations that are not traditionally used to working with each other.
It is an important concept as it engages multiple stakeholders, and leverages their strengths to achieve a bigger impact.
We believe that this is an exciting new way of looking at issues that are not easily addressed from a singular perspective, such as nutrition, sustainability and food security.
It also involves tackling problems from a broader perspective.
For example, addressing nutritional challenges in Asia involves so much more than looking at the nutritional status of a population or the food that we eat.
To address these issues, we must also consider society’s access to water and good sanitation, agriculture and the supply chain, and finally education of the population on nutrition.
A company, government or non-government organization would be unable to tackle the issue comprehensively.
By partnering with each other, a more effective solution can be found.
FNI: What other initiatives pertaining to partnership with academia has your organization taken?
Foing: We have worked closely with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Base of Pyramid (BoP) Hub on a project addressing the issue of hidden hunger among migrant workers in Singapore.
A study conducted by National University of Singapore Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research and Evaluation exposed the problem of poor food quality being served to foreign migrant workers.
There were poor hygiene conditions, and the meals lacked the necessary nutrients.
Based on the findings, we have subsequently worked in partnership with BoP Hub, a Singapore-based business accelerator platform focused on sustainable businesses, to come up with a solution to meet this public health issue.
The solution that we have jointly developed is based on staple food fortification, where fortified rice is made available to these migrant workers.
BoP Hub have incubated a social enterprise called 45Rice, who is responsible for marketing, packaging and selling this fortified rice directly to the caterers who provide the meals to these workers.
By working directly with them, 45Rice has also cut out the middle men in the supply chain, ensuring that the cost of the rice to the caterers is well managed.
This makes the arrangement financially sustainable to both sides.
Ultimately, this ensures that the rice is affordable for the worker, with no change in the prices that they will have to pay.
BoP Hub is also working closely with the contractors to ensure that the meals are delivered fresh, improving the quality of the meals.
We provided the rice fortification technology that offers reconstituted rice kernels that look, taste and behave exactly like normal rice, increasing the level of acceptability.
By making our fortified rice kernels indistinguishable from natural rice, we are also tackling the issue of nutrition from a more holistic perspective that considers the cultural and behavioral aspects of the consumer.
What we have found was that for other fortified rice products, users tended to throw out the fortified rice kernels as they looked different from normal rice, rendering them ineffective.
We are also working with the NUS Food Science and Technology Programme to assess the benefits of and impact of eating fortified rice among the workers.
FNI: What has DSM learnt from its experience in tri-sector collaboration?
Foing: We have discovered that collaboration is one of the most effective ways of approaching complex issues that society faces.
Through this project and other similar ones that we do around the world, we are constantly seeing fruitful results in the form of credible sustainability, where all parties within the value chain are able to benefit.
We remain inspired to continue advocating tri-sector collaboration as a real way to make nutrition aspirational, affordable and available, especially to those at the bottom of the pyramid.