The volunteers inaugurated a beautiful computer room for the children at the nursery and taught them basic computer knowledge. They also played games with the children and handed out gifts. The children, who were excited by their visit, had a great time.
The event was partly organized by “Conexão Voluntária”, a local organization that helps connect volunteers and social projects. But it differed a little bit from the past as these volunteers were from Santos port office of COFCO International, the overseas agriculture business platform for COFCO Corporation, which is China's largest food and agriculture company.
This was not the first time for COFCO International employees to volunteer. During 2020, they launched a total of over 60 volunteering initiatives in 13 countries. Over 500 COFCO International employees have been giving their time and skills to support these initiatives, benefitting more than 10,000 people in local communities.
Volunteering amidst the pandemic: Maintaining a stable supply chain
In May 2017, COFCO International moved its headquarter to Geneva, Switzerland, showing its determination to become a world-class global agri-business. In order to take its social responsibility and build trust with the communities where it operates, COFCO International established committees in major business countries to support volunteering initiatives.
In Brazil, COFCO International set up 24 volunteering committees across its commercial offices and production assets. In 2019 alone, 263 volunteers from the company carried out 59 volunteering services in Brazil. With a focus on three major issues -- environment, education and poverty alleviation, these volunteering initiatives not only made a positive and lasting impact to local communities but also enhanced employees’ cohesion and unity.
In 2020, the spread of Covid-19 made it impossible for Brazilian volunteers to do as much volunteering as they used to. To make it worse, in the early days of the Covid-19 breakout, the company’s business in Brazil was significantly disrupted. For instance, along the long roads from Mato Grosso to the country’s Atlantic ports, truck drivers who are responsible for delivering agri-products from silos to ports, were under risks of health as well as work suspension.
At that time, the pandemic made their strenuous journeys much harder. Restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus have closed cafés, rest stops, and repair services all along their routes.
To help others is to help yourself. COFCO International’s volunteers came up with a good idea. They teamed up with local truckers unions to launch a campaign to support the drivers: volunteers would hand out free food, medicines and epidemic prevention materials to keep the local supply chain afloat.
Starting from late March when the pandemic first hit Brazil, volunteers distributed about 600 food packages at the points where trucks were loading and unloading on a daily basis. Each month, around 20,000 face masks from China will be given to the drivers, protecting them whenever they need to leave their vehicles.
These volunteers’ passion and creativity instilled stability into Brazil’s agriculture supply chain, ensuring COFCO International’s normal operation in Brazil throughout the year.
Sustainability: a core corporate value
As the foundation of its agri-business, sustainability is one of COFCO International’s core values that guides various endeavors of the company. In 2019, COFCO International appointed and trained over 170 Sustainability Ambassadors in different regions. The Ambassadors would launch and organize volunteering initiatives related to sustainability.
On June 5, 2020, in celebration of World Environment Day, employees of COFCO International took actions. In three areas of Ukraine – Mariupol, Nikolaev and Novooleksiivka, employees organized activities like donating second-hand items, tree planting, keeping an environment-friendly lifestyle and waste management training. In these three areas, COFCO International owns an oil extraction plant, a port terminal and a silo respectively.In Romania, employees at COFCO International’s Constanta port office conducted education on identifying tree species and tree planting activity under the recommendation of the local city hall. In India, employees at the Kandla oil refinery also went to the suburb to plant trees.
In Sao Paulo state of Brazil, COFCO International launched a bee protection campaign named ‘Polinizar’ in the surrounding regions of its sugarcane plantations in 2016. In 2019, the volunteers of the Polinizar program cooperated with Kombee, a children’s education specialist, delivered learning sessions about bees to over 500 children in four municipalities.
Obviously, it was inconvenient for volunteers to step into classrooms in 2020. So they decided to design a live event to teach children about "The incredible world of bees". On October 12 in celebration of Brazil’s Children Day, a volunteer from Sao Jose do Rio Preto Office dressed in a bee costume hosted the live event.
Over 200 Brazilian children watched the event through mobile phones. Guided by volunteers, they learned about the importance of bees for our food and planet, the pollination process and the products they make. In addition, they were taught how to build a bee hotel.
Eliete Palhares da Silva Beneti, the Brazilian Sustainability Ambassador who organized this event, said: “I was very happy to bring knowledge of sustainability to children on a topic so important for the continuity of life on the planet. Knowing that more and more children have learned about the topic brings us a lot of joy and hope."