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Rimbunan Hijau monopolizes the logging industry in Papua New Guinea, Equatorial Guinea and Malaysia. They own significant forestry in Gabon, Indonesia, Vanuatu, New Zealand, and Russia. Rimbunan Hijau has business trades around the world and just to mention a few, they are Asia, Europe, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. According to the Malaysia-China Business Council, the estimated annual turnover of Rimbunan Hijau is more than USD 1 billion. According to Annie Kajir a human right lawyer in Papua New Guinea that landowners are forced to sign over their land with a gun behind their backs in the presence of police and company officials. Moreover, The World Commission on Forest and Sustainable Development 1999 states that more than 350 million people who are poor depends on the forest. Sarawak is the home to more than 1.76 million and 49.5% are indigenous tribes. Logging is Sarawak’s single largest source of revenue for the State Governments with the total exports of timber valued at MYR1.5 billion in 1985 according to Heyzer (1996) Logging has lots of pros and cons and the pros are that indigenous people normally receives modern amenities such as pipe water, transportation, education and job opportunities. While the cons are that the indigenous people are exposed to the modern world where it disrupts their traditional way of living exposing them to modern negative influences such as drugs and alcohol. Besides that, logging also destroys their natural resources known as environmental degradation which contributes to environmental issues that will affect them such as soil erosion, water pollution, shifting cultivation and declining plant, animal and fish stocks.
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The indigenous people depend on the forest and rivers for food and water. Logging changes their natural way of living by polluting the water and stripping the forest till the people no longer able to hunt, or plant their food. This is a price the indigenous people are not willing to pay in exchange for some modern amenities and modern social problems. They believe that this wouldn’t have happened if the government controlled their logging permits and allow the indigenous people to claim their lands under the adat customary law were they are allowed to claim the land if they cleared and cultivated the land. Over 50% of the indigenous people cannot read and only 54.2% of those who can read can only do so in their own dialect. When the Sarawak State Government introduced the 1958 Land Code, it further restricted in the creation of more customary rights meaning that the indigenous people could no longer claim the land that the cleared and cultivated. However, due to their illiteracy, none of them are aware of this new Ordinance and this is a problem to both of the authorities as well as the indigenous people. Rimbunan Hijau purportedly took advantage of their illiteracy and claimed their lands. The indigenous people could only protest in the form of blockades which will last for months resulting in great losses for many logging companies. Rimbunan Hijau has also been accused of conspiring with influential politicians for immunity from the law. The company also appeared to be protected by an extensive and well established network of political patronage and media control according to Heldringstra (2004) The issue that Rimbunan Hijau already has with the masses such as the activists, environmentalist, and the many issues with the law especially problems
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with their employees in Sarawak with the numerous rape cases, alcohol problems and exploitation of the orang asli especially those who depends on the forest to live. The problem that Rimbunan Hijau is currently facing and could be worst in the future in the PR practice areas are the problem with corporate social responsibility and issues and crisis management. As a global conglomerate dealing with timber, it should only be natural to give back to the community who depends on the forest to live. Giving back should be in the form of education to enhance their lives and ensure their future generations have a better life. Corporate social responsibility has to ensure that they satisfy the social, environmental and legal problems that have plagued them for many years. According to Kitchen (1997) the success of managing a company’s reputation is to influence how the company behave, how the company is reported and how the company is perceived by the public. A company’s image isn’t only dependent on its product and services but instead on its social responsibility. Research has also shown that there is a significant improvement of the sales of companies which have active social responsibility campaigns. If issues are not managed well, it becomes a crisis and the issue that they didn’t manage well was regarding their employees. Recent reports by The Star (Oct 6, 2008) claims that Penan girls are being sexually abused by employees of major logging companies in Sarawak. Besides that, employees has reputedly been drinking and under the influence of alcohol. This has become an issue when major local and foreign NGO’s exposed their activities and so far, has involved the Human Rights Commission, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Ng Yen Yen, Sarawak Police Commissioner Datuk Mohmad Salleh.
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Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Foundation (BMF) charged that employees of logging companies were targeting female students who depended on them for transportation to school. Besides that, they also charged that young Penan men were entice by alcohol brought in by the loggers and once are drunk, these loggers will ask them to bring them home as guest as they haven’t eaten and once the Penan men falls asleep, they’ll rape the women in their homes. This is a delicate issue because employees are the most important part of the company. The issue with their employee is the many complaints about their employees who apparently gets drunk and are involved in many rape cases especially with the Penan community. The rape cases resulted in the births of many babies who are stigmatized for being born without a father. Besides that, the women that they rape are only in their teens that used to have big dreams but after they got raped, they have to provide for the baby and they are normally ostracized for getting raped. According to Regester and Larkin (1997) states that “there has been a significant increase in activism and these well funded and well organized groups have enough power to influence even policy making especially with issues relating to the environment, human rights, food, health and safety, animal welfare, trading standards and even disclosure of information” Rimbunan Hijau should take this into consideration because they are vulnerable since they are involved in environmental based line which affects the indigenous people directly. The research required to develop the campaign should be carried out in stages according to Oxley (1989) Research should begin by identifying the problems and interviewing experts. Then, the research has to be more systematic which means case studies, statistics and research methodology involving measurable variances. The
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primary research methodology could be quantitative rather than qualitative because numbers, graphs and charts has more meaning than semiotics. The term stakeholder was coined by Edward Freeman in the 80s. Key stakeholders could be identified as the employees, communities, shareholders, investors, NGO’s and the government. As a stakeholder, the employees are directly affected because they are the driving force behind the company and employees are directly affected by whatever the company chooses to do. They have to work hand in hand to keep the forest sustainable such as replanting trees, chopping trees that are matured, and giving time to samplings to grow. Another stakeholder is the communities because as a company that’s dealing with the environment and forestry, they need to sustain the environment. The communities are those who are affected negatively because the company seems as if they’re fighting with the orang asli who have nothing except their forest. This portrays a negative image on the company. They could help by offering the community jobs and paying them better. Shareholders are also affected because the image of the company influences the price of their stocks. Investors are also affected because if the company is in trouble, their investments in the company will suffer and result in losses. Both could encourage the company to practice more ethical business and to contribute using corporate social responsibility. NGO’s and advocacy groups are the most critical because they can make or break a company. NGO’s and advocacy groups are affected because Rimbunan Hijau is going against the cause that they’re fighting for. The government on the other hand is affected legally. As mentioned, the company also appeared to be protected by an
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extensive and well established network of political patronage and it becomes an issue because it is unethical for a political figure to protect an unscrupulous business such as Rimbunan Hijau. The company and the NGO’s, advocacy groups and government could work hand-in-hand by providing the orang asli with basic needs such as clean water, decent housing and medical aid. They could also build a mini library and provide education. According to Oxley (1989) The goals and objective of the campaign must be measurable and could be stated as an improved reputation and greater trust for the brand Rimbunan Hijau, reduce cost and more efficient use of natural resources for a more constructive and sustainable forestry system. After the setting of goals and objective, scheduling and costing has to be done to estimate the duration and cost of each campaign plans. Scheduling and costing is important because investors, shareholders, accountants and even the CEO would want to know how much each campaign will cost as well as how long they are expected to participate in the campaign. Besides the accountants, everyone will be very interested with the figures. The first step in handling an issue is the risk audit. A auditing the risks such as the potentially unfavourable behaviour by the stakeholders, and in Rimbunan Hijau’s case, it’s their employees. The employees might be defensive and deny all allegations, thus, it’s difficult to carry out remedial steps to rectify the situations with immediate effect. Secondly, identifying and prioritising their audiences. For example, the major issue with Braer known as the Braer Disaster when their oil tanker ran ashore in Shetland in January 1993. The owners then prioritised the wrong audiences and ended in disaster.
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According to Newsom, Turk and Kruckenberg (2004) some PR key tactics consist of rhetoric, symbols and slogans. The most suitable tactics in this case are speeches, visual presentations, and the internet. Speeches and visual presentations are important because most loggers may or may not be illiterate. To get the message to them, they have to speak to them using simple language and also let the visuals do the talking. Measuring the success of the PR campaigns “determines the extent to which it achieved its objective” according to Oxley (1989) to measure the success of the campaigns, we have an attitude change, change in the company’s image, and increase in the company’s stocks and portfolio. In conclusion, corporate social responsibility and issues and crisis management is important in maintaining a company’s image. As long as a company follows the correct PR steps, there shouldn’t be a problem in the implementation and achieving the desired results.
PR Tactic 1: Speech
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Speeches are the most influential communication tool because the intended audiences don’t need to know how to read or write. Speeches could be used to target everyone and anyone in general. It is also one of the most common communication tools because anyone can understand it. A speech is relatively cheap, easy, innovative, and adaptive. The intended target audiences are the employees which may or may not be illiterate. At most the speech has to be easy to understand, using layman’s language, straight to the point, addresses the issue, and strong enough to empower the employees to change their behaviors. As Rudyard Kipling once said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” The objective of the speech is to address the issue and encourage a behavior change in all of the employees. The speech is to be presented by the CEO and is addressed to the employees especially the loggers. “Thank you for having me here to talk to you about some issues which should be closer to our hearts. Firstly, I want to say thank you for the amount of time you spend deep in the forest, logging trees to make beautiful products which are sold to make homes more beautiful. I want to say that your work is indeed beautiful, turning a house into a home. Secondly, we have a serious problem with ethics. We have received a lot of complaints and we take these complaints very seriously when it comes to you; our employees. Criminal offence such as rape and drinking alcohol during work is unacceptable. In the future, any employees caught doing so will be dealt with by the police and will be fired.
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Thirdly, we want to introduce a new system which will improve everyone’s life. Since our business involves the environment, we have to give back what we’ve taken. Employees are encouraged to plant more trees and for those working in our offices, together we’re going to practice the 3R’s which are reduce, re-use and recycle. The company will place recycling bins all around the office and on weekends, the office will be turned into a collection centre when all employees are encouraged to bring recyclable items to office which will be then recycled. The employee that recycles the most will win RM 300, so, start recycling!!! Lastly, we think that all work and no play makes Jack and Jill very dull people so; we’re going to have a family day. All employees are encouraged to bring their families to take part in our fun and games. We encourage our employees to perform charitable work during their free time. Besides that, we will be opening our factories for tours from primary and secondary school students and we hope that you will welcome them and teach them with patience. We hope you will participate and enjoy all of our activities. Thank you for listening to my speech and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it. I hope to see some changes in the way we run this place.”
PR Tactic 2: CSR for the Web
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According to Wilcox (2006) over 60% of Americans have access to the internet and the internet is an important tool in communication because people from all parts of the world are able to access the company’s profile. As a global conglomerate dealing in the timber and timber products, we should invest in alternatives to help sustain the environment because without the environment, we won’t have a future. To us, the future is where our children can enjoy fresh clean air, building tree houses, and discovering the best that Mother Nature has to offer. We pride ourselves by giving back to the environment. Our diverse ranges of products are made from the finest timber sourced from all over the world, turning them into beautiful products so you can turn your house into a home. Our passion for the environment doesn’t just end there. We have participated in many forest conservation and tree planting activities. We believe that our children have the right to a greener planet, and we have to sustain the environment for a better future. Here is a summary of our activities that highlights our contributions toward the area of Education, Community and the Environment. EDUCATION
We have sponsored factory tours to primary and secondary school children to teach them sustainable resources.
We constantly source machines that are friendlier to the environment and our loggers are well trained to minimize deforestation.
We constantly participate in international forums to discuss ways to sustain the environment.
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COMMUNITY We provide modern amenities and infrastructure to the indigenous
people in Sarawak such as a mobile library, schools, transportation, and water pipes for clean water. We encourage our employees to perform charitable deeds during their
free time and some of our employees are volunteers are children’s home and old folk’s home. We have adopted many indigenous kampongs so we could do more for
them financially and to enhance their lives. ENVIRONMENT We play an active role in our Plant-A-Tree campaign where we work
with our employees to plant trees as well as and we are constantly looking for modern ways to help, conserve, protect and sustain our environment for our children. We turn our offices into a collection centre every weekend to encourage
recycling and during normal working hours, we place recycling bins around our offices and factories to maximize recycling efforts from our employees. We know that it’s important for our customers to know about our business and we are happy to assure you that all timber and timber products purchased from our company are from sustainable forest. We believe that everyone should play their part and as long as we work together, it is possible for our children to play hide-and-seek amidst trees, climb the
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trees to touch the skies, and discover animals and insects they never knew existed. This is our dream and together, this will be our future. (493 words) (Total word count: 3035 words)
Curtin,P. and Gaither, K. (2007) International Public Relations, Murdoch University Reader. Cropper, M., Griffiths, C. & Mani, M. (1996) Roads, Population Pressures and Deforestation in Thailand, 1976-1989, The World Bank. Dauvergne, P. (1997) Globalisation and deforestation in the Asia-Pacific, Australia Department of International Relations. Hammond, D. (1997) Commentary on forest policy in the Asia-Pacific region, Forestry Policy and Planning Division, Rome. Heldringstraat, O. (2004) The untouchables: Rimbunan Hijau’s world of forest crime & political patronage, Greenpeace International. Heyzer, N. (1996) Gender, population and environment in the context of deforestation: A Malaysian case study, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development Geneva. Kasran, B. (1988) Effect of logging on sediment yield in a hill dipterocarp forest in Peninsular Malaysia, Forest Research Institute Malaysia. Kitchen, P. (1997) Public relations principles and practise, Thomson Learning Lee, Y.F., Chung, Arthur. & Kitayama, K (2006) Synergy between carbon management and biodiversity conservation in tropical rain forests, Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, Kyoto. Newsom, D., Turk, J & Kruckenberg, D. (2004) This is the realities of public relations 8th ed, Thomson Wadsworth. Oxley, H. (1989) The principles of public relations, Kogan Page. Purnomo, H. & Guizol, P. State Forest Land Management after Deforestation. The Star http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/10/6/nation/2198042&sec=nation
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accessed on 8 October 2008 The Star http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2008/10/6/lifefocus/2150772&sec=life focus accessed on 8 October 2008 Wilcox, D (2004) Public relations writing and media techniques, Pearson Education.
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