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Borneo Eco Tours’ (BET) incessant efforts in corporate social responsibility (CSR) get another endorsement when the company was announced the winner of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards 2014 in Singapore. The auspicious event on 31st October 2014, held in conjunction with ITB-Asia paid tribute to responsible tourism organizations around the globe in six categories. Borneo Eco Tours emerged winner in ‘Best in Community Engagement and Development’ category. Additionally, BET’s non-profit foundation, Borneo Ecotourism Solutions & Technologies (BEST) Society was also named finalist in the “Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative” category.
After 23 years of operation, the latest achievement of this Malaysian-Borneo based company is a testament of its extensive CSR commitments pioneered by founder, Mr. Albert Teo. In 1996, the company provided technical assistance to Bavanggazo Longhouse, Kudat in the area of tourism business. Bavanggazo Longhouse has since then evolved to be a major tourism attraction in Kudat, promoting unique Rungus culture while the villagers earn extra income through traditional dance and sales of handicraft.
BET and Sukau Rainforest Lodge (SRL) contributes RM12.00 (around RM50,000.00 per year) for every guest who stays at its 20 rooms award winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge to its non – profit foundation, BEST Society (www.bestsociety.org) for community and environment projects. BEST Society has since raised a total of RM1,223,782.99 including RM 536,210.91 or (44%) raised internally and spent RM999,378.23 in CSR initiatives as of July 2014.
A total of 65 acres of riverine land was rehabilitated in through BEST’s Kinabatangan Wildlife Corridor Rehabilitation Program, KWICORP.
Through BEST Society, BET and SRL launched a multitude of charity-based and poverty eradication community projects especially in Kinabatangan from 1996 onward. These included medical camps, water tank projects. In 2006, BEST Society decided to shift its emphasis on capacity building projects instead of charities and welfare. These comprise a series of entrepreneurship trainings to instill new skills to the locals. One of the rewarding outcomes is the birth of a few local entrepreneurs such as Mr. Ronnie Onginjan, the manufacturer of Virgin Coconut Oil and a group of ten organic farmers in Sikuati.
Another inspiring example; three community leaders from Kudat were sponsored for a social entrepreneurship vision trip to Sukau Rainforest Lodge in 2006. In 2010, Mr. Somuil bin Mojiun, one of the leaders started his own longhouse lodge ‘Tindakon Dazang’ at Terongkongan beach. Technical support is available to help potential small entrepreneurs like Mr. Somuil through BEST Society.
With innovation in mind, BET introduced Borneo Culinary tour in 2011, an educational indigenous culinary tour, which helps to generate revenue for the locals whilst promoting Sabahan delicacies.
Internally, over the last fourteen years the company initiated leadership development for the staff, who are mainly locals. In addition, skills and leadership trainings for their career advancement with annual budgets included. The company is proud to witness the progress of several rank and file members who rose from the ranks, including taking up supervisory position.
BET and BEST Society are currently developing its most ambitious community-based project yet with another NGO, Sabah Society – Camp Lemaing at the foothill of Mt. Kinabalu to create employment opportunities for local Dusun people. Construction work began in August 2013, using mainly bamboo and river stones with initial seed funding of RM70, 000 from Sabah Credit Corporation, the cost is expected to increase to RM250, 000 by the time it is completed. The marketing and operation will be undertaken by BET and BEST Society. The project is expected to raise RM50, 000 per annum for the community through the setting up of community development fund CDF and to be handed over to the local community of Kiau when they are ready or on expiry of the MOA.
Read more about Borneo Eco Tours’ CSR efforts here www.bestsociety.org