“Time To Act Is Now”: Asian Youth Urge Big Businesses To Make Palm Oil Production Sustainable

AYSPO RT17 Kamal

Fifty young people from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand gathered in Bangkok for the inaugural Asian Youth for Sustainable Palm Oil Summit co-organised by RSPO, PM Haze, and GIZ Thailand. After nine hours of intense discussions and productive critical arguments, youth from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds joined hands to co-create commitment towards shared responsibility to make ‘sustainable palm oil’ the norm.

The youth delegation hosted their summit prior to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil conference to highlight the urgency for big businesses to act now. The Asian Youth Delegation stated, “We represent 4 billion people in the region. We grew up in an era of extreme change. We have seen our homes once a place of warmth to be on fire now, our air that gives us breath to be coloured in grey haze and smog, our coastline where we have our livelihoods to be receding. And elsewhere in the world, we see glaciers melting, temperatures rising above the imaginable and typhoons destroying everything in its way. There is a need to act, now.”


The statement by the Youth Delegation went on to question the effectiveness of our current approaches. “Lifestyle changes can make a difference. But is it really enough? The key to achieving a sustainable future lies in economic transformation. And this economic transformation cannot happen without integrity. We ask of you the businesses, to commit and deliver your environmental promises and to be transparent with your progress. Because it is vital for businesses to change first so that the rest of us can join in the wave of change. This long-term investment will encourage brand loyalty and economic benefit. It will unite consumers and businesses towards a common goal for a sustainable future. There is no time to be ready, we just have to commit and grind through the challenges together,” the statement read.

The Asian youth delegation emphasised that accountability and innovation are key, and as the next generation they will be committing to sustainability themselves but also hold organisations and businesses accountable.

AYSPO RT17 Group

With our numbers and the economics we represent, which constitute more than 50% of the global GDP, we believe that youth today have great power to offer. Our common values, ideas, and energy will be our drive. To support you, the youth of Asia promises you here today that:

– We will integrate sustainability in and beyond our daily lives.
– We will keep ourselves informed of current affairs and effective solutions.
– We will work collaboratively through public platforms, therefore amplifying our impacts.
– We pledge to keep ourselves, businesses, governments, and NGOs accountable across countries for sustainable production and consumption of palm oil,” the statement read.

The delegation went on to state, “The youth have committed to this. And you have no choice but to work together. The shift towards sustainable palm oil is a win-win situation for all. We believe that not just us the youth, but all of us here today want to live in a future that is recognisable to us, one with abundant clean air to breathe, thriving forests and wildlife. There is no reason to accept anything less. This is the time for you, people of great power and influence within your circles lead this change. And we, the youth, the 4 billion in South Asia and Southeast Asia will be right behind you. A better future is possible.”

“The effort by the youths to engage in critical discussions of sustainable palm oil sector is commendable. Engaging with youths has always been part of our advocacy strategy, as we believe that we can grow an effective grassroots movement to increase adoption of sustainable palm oil to prevent transboundary haze in the region.” Benjamin Tay, Executive Director, People’s Movement to Stop Haze

“The action from Asian Youth is so inspiring! They have done a great job to support sustainable consumption. Consumer awareness on sustainable palm oil in Thailand is still low. We, GIZ as a cooperation development agency, commit  here that we together with Thai youth will leverage this awareness.” Kanokwan Saswattecha, Project Manager of Sustainable and Climate-friendly Palm Oil in Thailand, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

“There is a big opportunity for businesses to meet the sustainability expectations of the youth and build trust and brand loyalty through sustainable palm oil sourcing policies and actions. We encourage all the RSPO members to respond to this call. Together we can inspire a generation of people with hope and optimism and co-create a more inclusive world for all. THERE IS NO PLANET B.” Kamal Prakash Seth, Country Head, RSPO India

The Asian Youth Delegation will continue their work on #YouthForSustainability in their respective countries.


Speaker Sessions for the day!

A speaker session followed after the little exercise initiated by Kamal about self-analysis and tinkering the mind about how they can be an asset in their own ways!  

Kanokwan Saswattecha from GIZ Thailand shared the Journey of Sustainable Plam Oil by Thai Stakeholders. She shared a video that was focused on the farmers, their challenges with sustainable palm oil and how their lives are depended on Palm Oil production. A detailed description was given by the farmers about the practices they adopt. Kanokwan also shared the challenges faced in the implementation of sustainable palm oil practices which mainly includes unawareness about this and the reluctance to change the mentality with the farmers. She also emphasized on how data collection and accounting was a major hurdle for those farmers who did choose to adopt the change.


She also helped moderate the case study by smallholders by Ms. Sukanya from Sustainable oil palm community enterprise group and 4th generation Farmer, Mr. Watcharin Nakkaew who are making a change in their own ways, their struggles and management strategies to overcome those. 


The founder of GoalBlue, May Mei from China gave an explicit presentation about the changes she and her company is making in China and the impacts of those changes. She explained how they collect data, analyze that and identify various groups of consumers and how and where they tend to purchase various products. Social Media and Celebrities have a huge impact on people and the organization use this effectively on their target audiences to bring about awareness in the Chinese population. They also organize campaigns and festivals to encourage people to adopt sustainable practices in their lifestyles. 


The intensive session saw another speaker Benjamin Tay from PM Haze before the delegates headed for lunch. He re-energized the seated gathering by making them greet each other for the good job they are doing in their own ways! He brought to picture the exigent Haze crisis in South East Asia with a video on how Peat lands contribute to the haze and other potential contributors. The organization indulges in various campaigns, transboundary haze advocacy, Media engagement, and responsible finances that help in an effective impact. The ecological and community impact is immense and they further help in the eduction of the same.


And this concludes Part 1 of the Summit after which the delegates hit for the much-awaited lunch!



Asian Youth for Sustainable Palm Oil commences with great enthusiasm


The inaugural session of the Asian Youth for Sustainable Palm oil kick starts on this beautiful, bright Sunday morning at Novotel, Bangkok. 60 delegates and smallholders from India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and China gathered early in the morning to understand the complexity of the issue at hand and brainstorm solutions to it, nonetheless network and make friends!


The Summit commenced with a welcome note by Kamal Seth from RSPO India, Margareth Naulie Panggabean from RSPO Indonesia, Benjamim Tay from PMHaze, Kanokwan Saswattecha from GIZ Thailand. 


Questions like ‘why have we gathered here?’ and ‘what we want to get from the summit?’ was thrown at the delegates by Kamal and each country shared their views on this. The main census was about collaborating and bringing the conversation to the table and learn and share ideas.


This was followed by an overview of Palm Oil production by Kamal who explains Palm oil to general people as “It is in our blood and our skin”. He explained how Palm oil is the most efficient oil we have for our use and how banning palm oil will only encourage more deforestation. RSPO’s share in the production of palm oil is about 19%. The real question mark is on the remaining 81% which is produced unsustainably. But the shocker really is that only 50% of the sustainable palm oil produced is actually bought by the consumers! He also shared other challenges related to this with the companies, stakeholders and the government too.


Margareth from RSPO Indonesia then spoke about RSPO’s Initiatives and Roadmap for Sustainability. She stoked the already enthusiastic delegates with her beautiful memories of her life and brought the realization that how the kind of environment we have currently will dwindle down if we don’t take initiative now! She also shared a fun music video made by the youth in Indonesia to make aware the consumers about Ecobel, a sustainability mark in the country. 


Kamal then shared the concept of the Golden Circle and the interesting ‘Why?’ circle by Simon Sinek and helped the delegates align their skills and interests with the climate crisis. Leaving the delegates all deterred to act and engage with his trick, more speakers follow…


Contentment received by working in the social sector is unmatchable


Tushar Singh Bodwal

In the formative years of my career, I have actively engaged with Social Entrepreneurial ventures and NGOs. There is something pristine about working in the social sector; contentment received by success in this arena is unmatched and learning outcomes from failures motivate you to outperform yourself in the future. I’ve had an extensive outlook of this field while working in the head team of multiple organizations.

Inclination to make a career in the social sector came when I went to rural Rajasthan for an internship in the second year of my college (2015). This opportunity was to work under the guidance of first female MBA Sarpanch of India, Ms. Chhavi Rajawat, on diverse issues like governance, sanitation, financial literacy, gender sensitization, education, menstruation, and farming. It made me realize my privilege of having better access to education, healthcare, and social infrastructure. Back then, I used to remarkably undermine my work and efforts, as I couldn’t see the change that we had aimed for, after the completion of my tenure. This notion changed when I received a call 4 months later, after returning back to Delhi from the village. 

The caller was my student, Vishnu, belonging to a lower caste family situated in a hamlet which had unequal access to water and subjected to different forms of discrimination in daily social discourse. His call on 5th September to wish me ‘happy teacher’s day, sir’ gave me more contentment than any contribution I had made in other arenas. It made me realize that we need to cherish each low hanging fruit that we get rid of while working on the long road to sustainably, equitably and inclusively bringing distributive measures in the society. 

Currently, I’ve been working with Centre for Logical Research and Development Studies, an NGO on a panel with several Ministries and Departments of Government of India and various State Governments. During my fieldwork for the National Level Monitoring program of Gram Panchayat Development Plan in eastern Uttar Pradesh, I went to a flood-prone district, Bahraich. I interacted with more than 650 individuals belonging to the District Administration, Panchayati Raj Institutions, Self Help Groups and Village Organizations. The district was tackling challenges centering around healthcare, inter-block connectivity for villagers and meeting the target of Swachh Bharat Mission in the prescribed time. Disaster proneness and challenging terrain is a nightmare for policy implementing agencies. 

In the backdrop of this, an interactive monitoring session left an indelible impression on my mind. The people of Mustafabad Village, along with PRI and District officials, set aside all the inhibitions and actively engaged in participatory self-governance. In a campaign meant for promoting evidence-based and truly inclusive development plans, this village set a benchmark for others on how to formulate and execute their vision in an effective, efficient and responsive manner. Amongst many teachings during my fieldwork, this experience remains peculiarly close to me.

These interactions made me realize that there are several low hanging fruits that we can easily get rid of by promoting youth mobilization. Grassroots level research and promotion of best practices can equip socially suppressed, economically exploited and politically passive communities in ensuring sustainable lifestyles for themselves. Hence, empowering them in the truest sense.

Tushar Singh Bodwal
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019


Story of a failing student to framer of an education based NGO


I was born in a middle class family in Puttur, Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka. Its neither a big city nor a rural place. My high school days; when I look back here, the unpleasant memories dominate over the pleasant ones. Yes, I used to get bright red underline(which means fail) in most of the subjects. 
I used to get insulting words from all the teachers about my performance in  academics. This added to build up shy nature and negative thoughts within me and I was convinced that I was good for nothing. This made me feel more inferior about myself. But luckily I cleared my 10th exams. It enlightened some hope in me! Later I joined PU College in my hometown. Here I faced one of the biggest struggle of my life,that was to pass all the subjects! One day I could not write very simple formula on the board, this made me to cry like a baby in front of all my classmates .Again luck was on my side, I passed my PU.  I joined for B.Sc and a different yet a happy phase of my life began. My teacher and my mentor, A P Radha Krishna sir is the only reason for bringing this change! He helped me to find the real me! He made me to prepare science models.  Finally, I completed B.Sc with 87%. Apart from that, I learnt many things from my friends and lecturers. Overall that brought a big change in my life. Later I did my M.sc in physics, now in the last stage of PhD in Physics. 

I am telling all these because, A teacher can create wonders, similarly teachers can ruin student’s life. My teachers changed my life. And of course, as a teacher, I am trying to make my students overcome from their academic and the skills related problems. Also, I believe there is nothing to do with marks, all matter is how skillful you are! How many loyal people are with you in your life? How innovative you are? How you socialize? These are the things that that matter ultimately. 

Do not judge any student or kid by their academic performance.  In this world many wonders and innovations are achieved solely by the Skill based Knowledge. I think each and every kid has their own talent; one should identify and nurture it. I believe that we, teachers have a very important role to play.
And This is the only and main reason to start Akanksha Charitable Trust in 2012. Through this, now my team of 125+ youths are inspiring and educating young minds in rural parts of Karnataka. As of now we have reached 15000+ students. Being a lecturer in Degree College, I inspire my students to work for SDGs by starting youth forum in the same college. I am the managing director of My Medhas. Here we teach students through experiments along with basics. Also, we concentrate on their skill development.

I believe value added education can bring tremendous changes in the society and I work towards bringing this change. If I can win over the bad, anyone can!

Shreesha Bhat
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019


I am raising my voice to raise my community; I am aspired to inspire millions

Gitika Bhatia

“An unstoppable force of nature for she is infinitely wired to evolve into all things beautiful, built to conquer, achieve and sustain”

I am driven towards my mission to plant 1Bn trees and join 1Mn people in my mission, by 2025. I pride myself on being empowered, independent and detached woman which has been my learning from my journey so far.

My family business is 30yr old in Garment Manufacturing, which is known to be the 2nd most polluted industry in the world. I was motivated to change that when I along with my last corporate did research to manufacture clothes with less water, lower amount of carbon footprint and longer life. Technologies exist, we were not just aware of it. So we dug in and started prototyping fabric out from plant waste of Rose, Banana and Pineapple plants. We also worked around making variants of textiles from Recycled Plastics. Last year, I brought my knowledge and applied in my family’s business to shape it sustainably. This year, I went ahead to integrate technology and community with it by kick starting my marketplace idea which was long due, Grinfluent.

Technically, Grinfluent shall be a marketplace to learn, track and share your environmental impact through gamification & incentivization. Principally, Grinfluent will be the sense of direction to act and sense of motivation to incentivize you to act for the environment.

5th Element Group, a global impact accelerator validated my act while honoring me with Silver Coin of Honorable RaniLakshmiBai. Grinfluent and my passion were also appreciated when I was invited to a funded Silicon Valley, California trip for a simulation program where I pitched Environment Tech idea to Google and won.

I am raising my voice to raise my community; I am aspired to inspire millions.

Gitika Bhatia
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019


Learning to empathize

Avish Vijay

I am Avish Vijaivergiya. I am a User Experience Designer and in the meantime, I just look at things as I love to compare and bitch about them. Things like water taps, doors, dustbins and what not.

Have you ever done this exercise, when someone special is coming to your house, you try to imagine all the scenarios possible, try to understand their needs, you tidy up the place a little, looking into those minor details?

Well, it’s simple, you have just put things in a meaningful order so that your guest feels
good. You have just designed a usable experience. That’s what I try as well, So the
question is, how do I it, or rather why do I do this? Why is it needed?

To answer that question, I would like to roll back the time a little. I was a very very shy kid who cannot talk more than a sentence. Adding to the mess, I was a single child as well. I used to have this strange thought that was a byproduct of this low self-esteem “I as a person don’t matter, its the person for whom I am doing this work for which matters a lot”. All these years I always felt that my views, my feelings, my thoughts don’t matter to anyone.

Among all this, I had a hard family time as well which suppressed me even further. Don’t worry I won’t go into sentimental details. This thing, which back then had many negative impacts, had empowered me with one amazing thing which I cherish forever i.e Empathy.

My experience with subsequent ordeal has offered me high self-monitoring, hyper-vigilance and a predisposition to and taking on a lot of emotional work.

With my background, I find this difficult to turn off. Whenever I’m around people or things, I’m gathering information, I’m studying behaviors, I’m noticing usability. I struggle to avoid being the vessel. I have to make a conscious effort to stop. But stopping feels unsafe.

This makes me more of a designer.

And now things have started falling into place, from graduating as a civil engineer from IIT Roorkee to taking a leap of faith in design and deciding to follow my passion to give this world better usability, a better experience.

Avish Vijaivergiya
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019


Work Hard in Silence, let your Success be your Noise


From a very shy girl in my school days to a young woman journalist now, my transformation as an individual has been profound because it demanded a lot of efforts by myself as well as my parents and teachers to bring me out of the cocoon.

At this juncture, I am reminded of an embarrassing moment in my school days which marked a turning point in my life. My classmates had mocked at me and my teachers were disappointed as I was asked to speak for two minutes on a given topic and all that I could do was to stand silent with a blank face and shivering hands, without uttering a single word.

From that day onwards, I took every single day as a challenge to prove myself. From grade 11 to graduation, I had participated in most of the events and those five years of my life had made me stronger, bolder and a confident girl.  Ironically it may sound, I stood as an outstanding student of my college.

I had then pursued my Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication from Andhra University and stood as a gold medallist (2016). Apart from the district and zonal awards, I had also bagged a National award for an All-India essay writing competition which was organised by the United Nations Information Centre.

While pursuing my Masters, I started writing for the letters to the editor column in the national newspapers. With a dream to build my career, I started working as a freelancer for The Hindu MetroPlus, Vizag and then started my full-time career with The New Indian Express. 

A few issues which brought about an impact in the society are; 

  1. Sanctioning of Rs 50 lakhs by the district administration for renovating a 113-year-old heritage building which was damaged after cyclone Hud-Hud struck Vizag and it was decided to demolish the building. The building has been serving as a girl’s school from the past three decades.
  2. Many parks in the city which were used as dumping grounds were revamped for public use, after continuous efforts were made with the district authorities.
  3. Parking fees at commercial establishments in the city were abolished after the issue was highlighted in the paper. 

During my journey as a journalist, I was awarded as the best young woman journalist of Andhra Pradesh in 2017 for my exemplary work in voicing out people’s voice. I was also awarded as the emerging journalist in print media in the state. 

Reshma Jain
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019


Finding Me- Dhoondhna Khud Ko Phir Se Hai

Vibhu Garg.jpg
I grew up in a middle class family. My father is a businessman and my mother is a homemaker. My father had a struggling life. He did everything himself and took his business to great heights. Despite so much stress, he never threw his decisions and responsibilities on me. When I was in 10th, I got a bad CGPA in board examinations although my exams went really well. I filed a complaint against the same and fought for the same and after almost 3 months, my CGPA got changed. From 7.8 to 9.8 CGPA, it was a great achievement for a class 10th student. Again, the same thing happened with me in class 12th examinations, I got my papers re-evaluated and my percentage got improved. During my JEE preparation, my father and my mom used to wake up in late midnight hours and gave me milk/coffee/tea and something to eat with. They love me a lot. I have seen their struggle for me. They have been doing everything for me. After a lot of hard work, I got admission in NIT Kurukshetra in Mechanical Engineering. Well, I never knew much about engineering at that time, but somehow, I got my branch changed from Mechanical to Computer Engineering. This was an option given to first year toppers. My 3rd semester was hell, I felt as I had made a wrong choice. I failed getting an internship on-campus but after a lot of efforts and hard work, I graduated being Gold Medalist in Major Project, Computer Engineering (NITK), and was also amongst the department rank holders. Finally, I got placed in one of the finest IT companies Airtel X Labs, where I am currently working as a software engineer.
I never got real friends in my entire life. I was mere an option for them. I met here Shivam Gaddh. We work in the same department. He is more than a real brother to me. I think, he is the only support I have in Gurgaon. He always supports and motivates me and I think, I can share anything with him. I really don’t know what he thinks of me, but for me, he’ll always be the first one to know anything and everything in my life(since June, 2018). Thank you Shivam bhaiya. I am a Shiva devotee and finally Shiva has sent someone for me.
Life has always been challenging for me. Whatever I plan, it simply do not get executed at all. Things turn out to be opposite, the way I planned them off to be. But, one thing is sure, “I never quitIf I start something, I will end the same.” My personal life has taught me a lot. I have seen people backstabbing. There have been people whom I loved, cared and trusted more than anybody in this world, but, they never considered me anything in their life. I was mere an option for them. But, yes I have learned that connections are important not attachments. One of my seniors told me –“Vibhu, you’ll meet ‘N’ number of people everyday. Of them, there will be people you want to live with and there will be people who want to live with you. There is a fine line between the two. With time, you’ll get to know the people who shall add value to your life. Stay with them.” I understood, never be anybody’s option. If you remain an open option to people, they will simply use you and badly throw you out of their lives. Help people, but never compromise with your self-respect. Sometimes, a mere “NO” is way better than a mere “YES”. Never lose hope. Life is really hard and it is meant to be, otherwise it is death. Never run away from your problems, find solutions to tackle them. I used to expect people helping me, supporting me during the difficult phases of my life, but the one I thought of will always be there, were not there when I was in need of them, and eventually I found out strangers supporting and helping me out.
Life is a journey, it’s important to enjoy while living and struggling. “Welcome each and every moment in your life because Happiness is a mere choice”.
Har Waqt Khud Ko Dhoonta Hoon,
Jo Karne Aaya Tha, Kya Vo Kar Bhi Raha Hoon.
Sawal Bahut The, Jawab Ek Ni.
Ek jhoot sa bana liya tha zindagi ko,
Har waqt mano apna, mano har shaqkhs apna,
Ghar se Door, Ghar Dhoondhe Chala Tha,
Jankar Bhi Sabne, Anjana Kar Diya Tha,
Sath Rehkar Bhi Akela Kar Diya Tha,
Dost, Bhai, Sab Ban Gaye, Wajood Ban Gaya, 
Sabne, Us Chehre Ko Dekha, 
Jo Shayad Kabhi Tha Hi Nahi, 
Ab Dhoondhna Phir Se Hai, Chalna Phir Se,
Waqt Ka Kya Pata, Milenge Ya Nahi,
Aas Hai Dil Ki, Tumse Milna Phir Se Hai…..
Vibhu Garg
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019

Your attitude of never giving up will save you one day

I am a 17 year old girl who has been so busy her entire life . My life has been a series of serious unpredictable ups and downs probably a rollercoaster ride. Since I was in my pre school that lil Tulza had loved speaking, singing and sleeping. It was in the early years of my life when I was struck by a rare disease, that I started fading in the darkness of thought that I might never recover . But I had this one hobby of writing poems and that is when it hit me that I wanted to be a poet . The same time we had a competition in the school and I didn’t even clear the prelims . I ended up feeling depressed but I never gave up and kept on writing till I was satisfied and today is the day that I have already been in three anthologies and have been a published writer. I have always been so busy chasing the win that I barely had time to cry on my failures.
The same way, after working hard for years and participating in every local MUN , last year I was selected to attend the Asia Youth International Model United Nations in Malaysia but like I said it’s never easy for me . While my parents were packing their bags for the Malaysian trip my dad suffered a series of silent cardiac arrests and passed away. My core was crushed, I went in depression .  It had always been a dream because he himself was a big diplomacy lover and he left us too soon . But then his half lived dreams became mine and I packed my bags and left for Malaysia and made the everyone proud and not just everyone … I made him proud.
Your attitude of never giving up will save you one day. And will help you revive and rejuvenate , so just on track because nothing can stop you and you will succeed.
Tulza Kakde
Delegate, YIC IIT Delhi 2019