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Introduction about the Business of Wilmar International
The ideas of diversity and inclusion are embedded in the very foundation of Singapore. The tiny nation of South Asia has taken great strides in the growth of economy and development and is exemplary throughout the world. After achieving independence in 1965 the founding father of the nation made a clear vision for the country. The country aggressively promoted equality and inclusion not only for its business as a whole but also integrated these ideas into its society. This became even more prominent in its housing policy which advocated for racial inclusion in its residencies. Therefore, it is no surprise that its companies will also follow the path of diversity and inclusion in their practices. Today many of the companies originating from Singapore had made their mark on the world stage becoming one of the most profitable companies around the world.
One of the leading companies in Agribusiness in all of Asia is Wilmar International. The company was founded on 1st April 1991 by Mr Martua Sitorus and Mr Kuok Khoon Hong. It is one of the most valuable companies in Singapore with revenue of $24 billion. The most important countries for the company’s business are China, Singapore, India, Indonesia and Malaysia (Wilmar’s Harvest, n.d.). The company is doing really well and very recently it ranked 211th in the Global Fortune List of 2020 and 3rd as the World’s Most Admired Company by Fortune in the year 2019. One of its latest and most notable acquisitions is its acquisition of the Australian sugar company “Sucrogen” for $1.5 billion. This acquisition had a great effect on increasing the portfolio of the company. At present the company boasts a diverse portfolio, it deals with edible oil refining, crushing of oil seeds, and processing of grains and its merchandising is notable. Thanking all the above information depict all the accomplishments the company is not devoid of its fair share of lows. The company came under scanner due to its unfair labour practices; it faced many criticisms relating to slave labour, child labour and unfair working conditions in many of its plantations. It has also been exposed for its alleged misuse of environmental resources, unethical operations and displacing large groups of people (WWF – REPORT: Palming off a National Park: Tracking Illegal Palm Oil Fruit in Riau, Sumatra, 2014).
Organisational Structure of Wilmar International
Wilmar International is led by Mr Kuok Khoon Hong the 73-year-old businessman who is both the Chairman and the CEO of the group, with years of experience in business he is also the chairman of and Share Purchase Committee. The other notable members of the company are PuaSek Guan the Executive Director and Tao La Mei the Company secretary. The company follows a vertical integration business model that encompasses the complete value chain from its organisation to distribution (Vertically Integrated Business Model, 2023).
Ethical and Inclusive Approaches to Leadership
Diversity is not just another attribute that a company must have; it is an essential aspect of the company’s growth. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, it was made clear that companies that have a high degree of racial, ethnic and sexual diversity tend to outperform companies that lack diversity. This is because diversity brings different opinions and outlooks on the same problem. People with varied ethnic, racial and sexual orientations tend to have different life experiences and their decisions and opinions are greatly influenced by them. This creates room for more innovation and improvisation in the work culture. It also must be addressed that communication with people who are different needs an extra deal of effort hence psychological safety is also an important tool for the proper implementation of diversity. There have often been many instances where people who are from the minority community have felt isolated and ignored in their workplaces. Such incidents are a proof of lack of psychological safety in the workplace. Therefore, creating a workforce that has a fair amount of diversity should not be the main aim. It is not another box that must be ticked by a company to improve its perception among the people creating a comfortable work culture that welcomes people from every background is also beneficial to improve the problem-solving capability of the company (College, 2018).
Moreover, another study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group shows that the companies that are more diverse have 19% higher revenue due to more innovation (Lorenzo, 2020). It is true that this study is much more significant for tech companies and start-up-based companies as innovation is the most significant part of their growth. South Asian countries particularly have a high involvement of female workforce due to the cultural shift that has been going on for the last few decades. Besides, Hays Asia Diversity and Inclusion report of 2018 claims that improved leadership, inclusion and promotion of diversity benefits the work environment and the performance of the company (2019/2020 HAYS ASIA DIVERSITY & INCLUSION REPORT, n.d.).
Sustainability is a matter of concern for most companies in the 21st century. Being one of the leading Agribusiness companies in the world Wilmar International understands its responsibilities towards the globe. Moreover, being highly dependent upon agriculture the company understands the necessity of its steps as far as maintaining balance in the ecosystems is concerned. It must not be forgotten that many agriculture-based companies’ actions have directly led to deforestation thus impacting forests and their vulnerable species. Therefore, the company believes that they are in a very unique state to leverage its scale and expertise, therefore embracing a more sustainable and responsible approach as far as conserving natural resources is concerned. Therefore, special care will be taken in the procedure by which raw materials are acquired and the disposal of wastes causing a minimum effect on the environment. The company strictly follows the guidelines of (NDPE), which is “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation”. Hence the company focuses on their main aspects such as the protection of the environment, prioritisation of human rights and last but not least the responsibility it has towards its customers in the market. Hence to fulfil such a commitment the company has implemented a three-pronged strategy. They are:
- A robust feedback system with continuous and constructive engagement with the stakeholders will help the company understand their grievances and help its actions in the future.
- Obtaining all the relevant certification schemes.
- Active transferring the knowledge to all the suppliers to make the journey much more sustainable in future(Sustainability, 2023).
Another important aspect that the company makes its prime concerned about is inclusivity and diversity. In the 21st century, every company is laying more emphasis on creating a more diverse environment where people of all races and genders can find it comfortable to work. Therefore, factors of liberal policies and psychological safety have become a chief matter of concern for most companies across the globe. The overall mental health of the workers and their work and life stability not only create a healthy work culture but also improve the productivity of the company benefiting it in the longer run.
Hence, Wilmar International is also a firm believer that diversity and inclusion are going to build an environment that will promote creativity and innovation in the company. It believes that all of its employees must have equal opportunities no matter their religion, race, age, sexual orientation, gender and cultural background. The supplier guideline of the company encourages the workers to encourage the workers to work freely in an inclusive environment it also deals with providing its employees with basic human rights and protecting them from harassment, discrimination, intimidation and any kind of abuse. It also takes necessary steps to empower the female employees of the company.
Female representation is a great point of concern for the company. The company is dedicated to implementing inclusivity and female representation at all levels of its workforce. At present, the company has 90000 employees and among them 24% are women. The company is extremely proud to announce that 57 % of its workforce in the headquarters is constituted of women and 27% of the people who are in the senior management are made up of women (Human Capital Management, 2021).
As far as the Women Charter 2019 issued by the company, evidently lays maximum stress on the decision of women and their role in the decision-making of the company. In the month of April 2019, a Women’s Committee Steering Group (WCSG) that was headed by the Wilmar Manager was established. The main aim of this was to encourage women to more participate at every level of the company and have a huge involvement in the decision-making of the company. Under this program, the aspects like the protection of female health were also taken into consideration. It must also be mentioned that the Working Women’s Groups had a huge implication on the success of these projects.
The company considers its employees vital assets for the growth and development of its organisation and is committed to providing their families with a better lifestyle. It provides women with maternity leaves, health coverage for their families, and allowance for child transports, paternity leaves etc. It has done a fabulous job in promoting education among the family members of its workers. It must be noted that a huge fraction of its workforce comes from an economically weak background, especially the people working in the plantations of countries like Malaysia, Indonesia etc. Therefore, the company has taken measures in making creches for the children of their employees, building primary schools and supporting secondary education. It has also gone to great lengths in ensuring the safety of women in the workplace by rising awareness about it. It also has specially trained people for the investigation of such cases creating a safe work environment for women. Furthermore, it has launched several programmes for improving the food security of the family of the employees. Programs like women’s education have had a significant effect on improving female literacy. It must also be noted that the company has ventures in countries in Africa and South East Asia many of which are extremely impoverished, therefore the company is aware of the impact it has on the livelihood of its employees. Hence 95% of its workforce is made up of full-time employees while the other 5% are temporary. Among them, 31% are plantation workers, while 30% work in factories and are responsible for their production. The successful implication of the inclusivity policy of the company is the main reason for the diversity of its workforce. The employees of their company come from 39 nations and are mainly from countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia etc (Responsible Operations, 2023).
But the company recognises the importance of its temporary employees. These are the people who are responsible for the seasonal harvest and time-bound operations. About 78%of the employees enjoy permanent status while only 22% of them are working on a temporary basis.
Entrepreneurial practice and its Impact on Leadership
The practice of entrepreneurship is of many dimensions. It deals with solving problems by inventing and reinventing a particular product or service for the people which can create monetary gains and also solve social, cultural and infrastructure-oriented problems (Brighton School of Business & Management, n.d.).
Entrepreneurs are the most important for the economy of any country. They are effective problem solvers and create new products and services. This not only benefits the people but also generates employment, as a result, boosting the economic growth of the country. Entrepreneurs not only are the ones who are making constant innovations to bring new products to the market. Managing people successfully and leading them in the most productive of fashions is one of the most important skill sets an entrepreneur must have. In a world where companies are becoming more and more welcoming towards diversity Entrepreneurs have to be more efficient in leading people with different backgrounds. As mentioned, before it takes more effort to effectively create a cohesive team with a diverse group of people. Therefore, entrepreneurial practice works wonders in improving the leadership quality of a person and also has a great impact on the character development of a human being. Entrepreneurial practices help in generating certain qualities that a leader must have. Given below are certain qualities of leadership that have far-reaching implications in developing the personal and professional development of the employees.
Collaboration is a very important cornerstone towards inclusivity. The more a person feels included and important the more are they going to effectively collaborate with the company. Therefore, the main function of an effective leader is to create an atmosphere of inclusivity and encourage collaboration among these employees. This can only be possible with proper conversation. Therefore, healthy communication between employees must be of utmost importance to create a productive work culture (Mor Barak & Daya, 2014).
Visible commitment, humility and empathy are some vital qualities of inclusive leadership. It must be noted that different people have their own fair share of strengths and weaknesses (Bourke & Titus, 2020). Treating everyone with empathy and tolerance for everybody’s drawbacks is very important. People like to be valued it has been proven time and again that people tend to perform better in places where people are valued. Hence leading by example is necessary for any entrepreneurial practice. Leaders that lead by example and have empathy and vision tend to have better team performance than others.
Creating an inclusive environment is better said than done, making an environment that is positive and welcoming towards every cultural and social group needs many aspects of careful consideration. A leader must first come to terms with his own prejudices before implementing the idea of diversity (Ordorica, n.d.). Once again, the importance of psychological safety and its importance must be mentioned in the implementation of cultural diversity. It must also be addressed that biases are formed due to personal experiences but a good leader with a mission of creating an inclusive environment must have a broader outlook and therefore critically evaluate their behaviour amongst the different people in the workplace (Feyes, 2018).
Moreover, a very key aspect of inclusive leadership is cultural intelligence. A leader should be aware of the different types of cultural stereotypes and must understand the reservations of people coming from different racial and cultural and religious backgrounds. Setting some serious boundaries as far as the employee code of conduct is concerned is a matter of prime importance, this will make everyone feel safe in the work environment. Moreover, showing genuine curiosity about the solutions and opinions of every employee will also work wonders in building interpersonal relationships between different employees. Above all, this will be of great use in reducing blind spots while decision making (Symonds, 2022).
It must be taken into consideration that entrepreneurship creates the scope to interact with several people will varied levels of experience and diverse skillset and companies like Wilmar International that have shown the presence of competent inclusive leaders since its inception have been successful in optimising their workforce with such a kind of mindset.
It is evident that an inclusive environment can improve employee engagement and employee retention. Human resources are perhaps the most valuable resources of a particular company, it is because of the active participation and decisions that make a company profitable. Hence the workforce can make or break a company. Therefore, retaining skilled employees and making the company attractive to people of different racial and cultural backgrounds are prerequisites for a company’s success. It is the ideas of these employees that are going to serve the company in the long term. Taking a look at the structure of Wilmar International and its contribution to creating a diversity-friendly environment there is no denying that the company has done a commendable job. But still, there have been controversies in the past about its activities regarding child labour and deforestation. Hence it must not be denied that there is a lot more that can be done by the company in this particular field.
Creating More Inclusive Workplace Policies
Better workplace policies are an essential way of improving diversity at workplaces. It is evident that Asia and Africa have many religions. Therefore, allowances must be given for the employees to take holidays during their religious festivals which may not be officially celebrated by the company (Mor Barak, 2000). Moreover, in the context of promoting inclusion, the following strategies can be applied:
Flexible Working Hours: Providing flexible work hours for the employees is also an important step that the company can take as certain employees from certain religious backgrounds have certain religious rituals to follow at certain parts of the day (Garcia-Yeste et al., 2022).
Overcoming Language barriers: Language barriers can be an important problem that is quite common in inclusive workplaces. People from different linguistic backgrounds find it difficult to understand each other; and hence, a proper utilisation of a mobile workforce app that has a translation feature can be extremely helpful for solving the communication problem between employees (Noack et al., 2021).
Inclusive facilities like non-gendered washrooms can also be another way to address people of the third gender or those who do not identify themselves as any gender. This will create a more welcoming environment for everyone.
Employee Survey: Employee Survey is also an important tool that could be incorporated into the company. It is evident that feedbacks help us to understand the degree of success of a particular venture. Constant employee surveys and feedback can help the company identify the inconsistencies in their effort and also figure out the area for improvement. We have examples of companies like salesforce that have employees volunteer along with its communities to create deeper connections with each other (Christian Grossmann, 2019).
Promoting Employee Engagement: Wilmar International is a Multinational Company with ventures in countries like India, China, Indonesia, Myanmar etc. Hence it can allow its employees to visit its multiple branches for a healthy mixing of its employees. This can help employees from different religions, races, cultures and nationalities to forge a meaningful bonding with each other.
With the tremendous growth of science and technology, the future of every industry including Agribusiness will change for the better. Many estimates show that aspects like racial and gender equality in workplaces will be a reality in the years to come. Therefore, concepts like inclusivity and social justice will be indispensable in future (UN Women Strategic Plan 2022-2025, n.d.). Workplaces are going to be more welcoming and hence barriers like language and race will be a matter of the past. It is a matter of great delight that the society and the work culture of Singapore are greatly on par with such a concept. Novel ideas like psychological safety will be pondered even more in the future.
Many ideas were discussed to boost collaboration among the members of a company, including ideas of inclusive leadership that will create a comfortable working space for every employee. Taking Wilmar International into consideration we find that the company have made several efforts in the past to create an inclusive work culture for its sustainable growth. Being an agriculture-based company, it does not only have a responsibility towards the cultural life and education of its employees it also has a considerable responsibility towards the balance of the environment. With a huge number of workers and estimated that is supposed to rise in the upcoming years the company must continue its relentless effort in making its growth more sustainable. According to recent estimates, we find that women make up about 55% of the broader employee functions that include positions from legal, finance, marketing etc(Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Matters, and It Is Achievable, n.d.). The percentage of female inclusion has increased rapidly in every possible field a prospect that is only going to improve in the future. Hence it could be safely said that companies like Wilmar will profit greatly due to the inclusive and diverse environment that it has created for itself.