The Early Years of Sukanto Tanoto – Paving the Path to Greatness

Sukanto Tanoto, currently one of the most well-known, richest and respected business leaders in Indonesia, has started out in life in a volatile time, when the country was still fighting for its independence and life for most Indonesians – most especially Chinese immigrants – was extremely hard.

Young Sukanto quickly learned the basic lessons about the value of hard work, the many traits of the people he and his parents would meet on their journey through life and the numerous challenges associated with maintaining a successful business and good grades in school all at the same time.

A Difficult Time for Indonesians

On December the 25th, 1949, a young boy named Sukanto Tanoto was born in Belawan, Indonesia, to parents of Chinese descent who migrated to Indonesia in the early 1900s, from the Fijian province of China known as Putien.

Only 4 years after the end of World War II, this was an extremely difficult time for all Indonesians, with uprisings and guerilla wars spawned from a difficult fight for independence, which the young country obtained shortly after Sukanto Tanoto – the eldest of 7 brothers – was born.

His early childhood was marked by the problems associated with the fact that Sukanto was of Chinese descent, so from the start, he could not be enrolled in a regular public school. Combined with lacking infrastructure and large distances that had to be covered to even reach the school, this had a profound impact on the young boy, who quickly learned that he had to adapt to his surroundings if he hoped to achieve his dreams someday.

Balancing Work and School

If we think life is difficult today, Sukanto Tanoto’s early years should definitely serve as a source of inspiration for how someone can beat the odds, despite so many obstacles and difficulties.

A typical day in the life of Sukanto Tanoto began with an active morning in which he would help his mother at home with his 6 younger brothers, then head out to help his father at a gas station and a small shop. It was tedious work that had to be done by hand, the most difficult of which was pushing heavy barrels of oil and diesel into place – a task that was naturally extremely challenging for a young boy.

While school work was less physically challenging, young Mr. Tanoto also had to endure a bumpy one-and-a-half-hour bus ride to get to school. Undeterred by the lack of comfort and the heat that often accompanied the journey (there was no AC back then), Sukanto Tanoto diligently prepared for his lessons on the bus trip, determined not to waste any of his precious time and to try to profit as much as possible from the education that he was provided.

The Many Lessons of a Difficult Childhood

Young Sukanto Tanoto learned from an early age how valuable hard work, determination and understanding can be when it comes to achieving success in life and being able to help those around him.

Unlike in the case of most children, however, most of his lessons didn’t came from school books – although he certainly learned that it is best to retain as much as that knowledge as possible too – but from working at his parents’ part shop and gas station.

He quickly picked up the basics of how business works and learned from the hard work he put into pushing barrels, cleaning and doing chores, that persistence and discipline are vital for good results.

The most valuable lessons, however, were those learned about the many different types of people who would travel through the transient town and become their clients, learning how to identify customers who were honest or not.

This is how, even at an early age, Sukanto Tanoto learned some of the most important basics of business, as well as its close relation to life as a whole and the importance of a closely connected community.

Sukanto Tanoto’s APRIL group supports local artists in creating environmental awareness

As one of the world’s leading paper and pulp manufacturers, APRIL constantly strives to realize the vision of its founder, Mr. Sukanto Tanoto.

Recently, APRIL had the pleasure of supporting artists in Indonesia whose creative talent has produced a series of beautiful paintings as part of the Caring for Climate Doodle Competition. Drawing on talent from across the country, this competition reflects Mr. Tanoto’s commitment to climate and environmental sustainability.

Artists express the ethos of Sukanto Tanoto’s four Cs

RGE’s Founder Sukanto Tanoto is well-known for his 4Cs philosophy, which places an emphasis on country, climate, community and company in the running of all his businesses.

The Caring for Climate competition gave ordinary Indonesians with special artistic talents the opportunity to express themselves on the topic of climate and sustainability – with beautiful results. Colorful canvases depicting smiling faces, green mountains, and crystal-clear water are just some of the images that Indonesian artists produced under this inspiration.

APRIL’s commitment extends to all areas of community life

The APRIL group and its subsidiary, RAPP, are deeply committed to supporting community projects in Indonesia, in keeping with Mr. Tanoto’s vision. The Caring for Climate competition saw this commitment extended beyond individual communities, as the whole of Indonesia had an opportunity to showcase its creative talent.

RAPP’s Mill Operational Director, Ali Shabri, attended the competition and had the following to say:

“This is a great event to introduce to people that our company operates in an environmentally-friendly way. Our paper is made from renewable resources that we grow responsibly and in accordance with our business philosophy of being Good for Climate.”

To stay up-to-date with the RGE group’s latest climate initiatives, we invite you to follow Mr. Sukanto Tanoto via social media on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or LinkedIn.

Sateri ranks highly among global cellulose fiber manufacturers, fulfilling Sukanto Tanoto’s business vision

Sateri celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and in just a decade and a half, the business founded by visionary, Mr. Sukanto Tanoto, is set to become the world’s biggest viscose staple fiber producer by 2020. In this article, we take a closer look at the global cellulose fiber market and find out how Sateri became an industry leader.

VSF – a crucial part of the global textiles industry

Viscose staple fiber is an essential component in the production of textiles, tissues, and sanitary products – in fact, it’s hard to go through a single day without using something that was made using VSF. As one of the leading suppliers of this crucial product, Sateri occupies an important position in the international textile industry.

Quality and competitiveness

With a focus on quality standards and efficient manufacturing, Sateri has made its presence felt in an industry that was once dominated by older competitors. The company’s high-quality VSF has attracted customers from every continent, creating another success story for the RGE group of companies founded by Sukanto Tanoto.

Mr. Tanoto’s 4Cs – a winning business philosophy

Going beyond profits and giving back to communities and the natural environment have always been part of Mr. Sukanto Tanoto’s business approach.

Sateri’s success can be measured financially as well as environmentally, and the company’s commitment to sustainable forestry and the preservation of natural habitats is proof that Mr. Tanoto’s 4 Cs – climate, country, community, and company – are an excellent recipe for success.

If you’d like to stay up to date with Sateri and its parent company RGE, we invite you to follow Mr. Sukanto Tanoto via social media on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or LinkedIn.

Tanoto Foundation Teacher Programs

The Tanoto Foundation was founded by Indonesian entrepreneur and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto and his wife Tinah Bingei Tanoto in 1981 as a way for them to give back to the community. The Foundation’s first philanthropic act was to fund the construction of a Kindergarten and elementary school in Besitang, North Sumatra in 1981.

Since the Tanoto Foundation’s modest beginnings, it has grown to encompass nationwide educational programs in an effort to alleviate poverty in rural areas by helping both students and teachers to receive better education.

The Foundation operates in the areas where its Founder, and member of the Board of Trustee’s, Sukanto Tanoto’s businesses are located: Indonesia, Singapore, China and the USA.

The Tanoto Foundation’s main focus is to alleviate poverty in rural areas by funding and developing programs which are aimed at improving access to and quality of education, empowering rural and financially unstable communities to be self-sufficient and enhancing the quality of life in rural areas.

While the foundation is involved with various activities and programs including free health care in rural villages, handing out scholarships and providing vocational training programs, Sukanto Tanoto believes that great teachers are needed to further the education of the new generations. This is why the Foundation has four different teaching programs which are:

  • Pelita Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini – Aimed at improving the quality of rural early childhood education through helping teachers achieve national certification, further training teachers and caregivers to improve their competency and renovating the educational infrastructures.
  • Pelita Guru Mandiri – Aimed at training teachers in topics such as the development and implementation of a contextual learning approach, effective classroom management and collaborative learning between teachers and students. Through implementing these teaching methods students become more involved in the lessons and learn more on average.
  • Pelita Pustaka – Builds and renovates school libraries, supporting schools where access to information is limited. Teachers are trained to be librarians and each school in the program is given books for its library which are rotated on a 2-3 month basis with other participating schools.
  • Pelita ASRI – Aimed at creating clean, healthy and safe learning environments at schools through installing clean water supplies, renovating bathrooms and classrooms and providing classroom furniture.

“Our thesis is that schools are the building blocks of society. If you want to alleviate poverty, you have to work through schools,”- Belinda Tanoto, daughter of Sukanto Tanoto and a member of the Tanoto Foundation Board of Trustees.

For more information on Sukanto Tanoto, you can learn more about him here.

Good News Spreads Like Wildfire: Under Sukanto Tanoto, APRIL praised for Fire-Free Village Programme

The pulp and paper industry has, in recent history, been subject to intense scrutiny – with the problem of haze and environmental protection having become regional and even international talking points. Managing and reducing forest fires, identified as the key to solving these issues, has naturally become a matter of increasing priority of communities, countries, and companies. It is comforting, therefore, to know that progress has been made in this respect; Sukanto Tanoto-led APRIL was recently praised for its efforts, notably the Fire-Free Village Programme (FFVP).

FFVP not a one-off

 Good News Spreads Like Wildfire: Under Sukanto Tanoto, APRIL praised for Fire-Free Village Programme

The FFVP has almost become the crown jewel of APRIL’s initiatives in tackling the much-dreaded forest fires. While the pulp-and-paper giant, owned by businessman Sukanto Tanoto, has had an array of initiatives promoting more sustainable and responsible practices –one only needs think of the Restorasi Ekosistem Riau and the Fire-Free Alliance – the FFVP has definitely received a huge share of the limelight, deservedly so. A multi-stakeholder initiative that focuses on fire prevention and suppression, the project was recently given the stamp of approval by head of National Agency for Disaster Management, Willem Rampangilei. Rampangilei was on hand to launch FFVP 2017, at Pelawalan Airstrip, Riau.

FFVP receives plaudits, support, and faith.

The FFVP is merely one of many examples highlighting Sukanto Tanoto’s community-centric approach to business and, indeed, life. The businessman and philanthropist is chairman of Singapore-based RGE, which itself manages companies such as APRIL, Sateri, and Pacific Oil and Gas, and co-founded the Tanoto Foundation with his wife Tinah Bingei Tanoto. At the heart of all his ventures and companies however, is the 4Cs philosophy: creating good for the Community, Country, Climate, and Company. This same philosophy, whilst providing the rock on which his empire would stand, has allowed the communities around his companies to benefit greatly.

The importance of including the community and stakeholders within a company’s plans was also highlighted during the launch. Fire prevention, Rampangilei reminded, requires strong commitment and awareness from various parties. Rampangilei also mentioned that he was sure the FFVP could contribute to the suppression and land and forest fires, and hoped to see the programme further expanded to other parts of Indonesia. Sukanto Tanoto would be proud.

Project Sukacita Changes Lives in Pekanbaru

Pekanbaru is the capital of the Riau province in Indonesia, and the 10th largest city of Indonesia. However, the rural folk of Pekanbaru lead a very simple way of life. Many do not have access to basic healthcare or health related information such as proper hygiene practises or knowledge of nutrition and the nearest medical facilities are often miles away from them.

The 25 volunteer members of Project Sukacita have devised specific programmes and activities that they hope will serve to educate the people in the communities of rural Pekanbaru, as well as address the health concerns of the children. Some of the most common health problems these locals face are infections, diarrhoea, fever, flu, malaria, malnutrition, rashes, and vomiting.

Out of the 25 student volunteers, 15 of the students are from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of medicine, and the remaining 10 are from the Singapore Management University and Nanyang Technological University’s IndoClub.

Project Sukacita’s Plan of Action

Due to the language barrier some of the medical students encountered, the Indonesian students were relied upon to translate their advice to the mothers and nannies who attended the Project Sukacita educational talks. At these talks, basic ways to manage the more commonly found health problems were discussed, as were early warning signs that caregivers could look out for that would indicate urgent need for medical attention.

Lastly the children themselves were given a lesson in basic nutrition where they learned about important nutrients they needed such as fibre, proteins and vitamins in order to have a healthy balanced diet.

Project Sukacita is a volunteer community service project run by Tanoto Foundation scholarship students as a way to “pay it forward”. The Tanoto Foundation, founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to improve the lives of people living in impoverished and rural areas through education, empowerment and enhancement of quality of life. The Foundation operates in areas the Royal Golden Eagle group of companies, founded by Sukanto Tanoto, operate in.

Train Safety, Work Safely: Under Sukanto Tanoto, Asian Agri Makes Safety Training a Key Priority

Sukanto Tanoto’s rise to the top is a bona-fide success story for the ages. Building his business empire from scratch, today Sukanto Tanoto is the chairman of RGE –which manages some of the biggest names in the natural resources industries such as APRIL, Asian Agri, and Sateri.  An astute businessman and a keen philanthropist, Sukanto Tanoto has always centred his actions on the 4Cs philosophy: creating good for the Community, Country, Climate, and Company. He knows that doing well by the stakeholders he depends upon – the workers, suppliers, and community –is imperative for his continued success. One way to do well by his people is by keeping them safe. In that regard, Asian Agri has taken concrete steps, with their recent safety training programme.

Asian Agri Makes it Big, Sustainably

One of Asia’s largest palm oil producers with an annual production of one million tons, the company founded by Sukanto Tanoto has been a champion for sustainable and responsible practices. Occupational Safety and Health, naturally, is one of their great concerns. Various initiatives and steps have been implemented, in a bid to minimise the number of workplace accidents, through its regular training for different aspects of Occupational Safety and Health throughout its business units.

Creating a Safe Culture, One Training at a Time

On April 28 to 29, 2017, Asian Agri again held the Work Accident Training programme for the Northern Sumatra region. A total of 42 Participants, coming from all of Asian Agri’s business units in the region, were present; they were trained by an expert from the Association of Safety Professionals in Indonesia (APKPI), Edy Saptono.

The training, which aims to improve the competence of the Asian Agri family at dealing with workplace safety issues, provides a periodic reminder that the culture of safety must start from the top. Only with unit leaders having a common understanding of safety and its processes, can a culture of safety truly and indelibly imprint itself within the company. While not one which directly generates profits for the company, it is a crucial step in ensuring that Sukanto Tanoto’s 4Cs vision comes to fruition.

RGE representatives attend 2017 World Economic Forum on behalf of Chairman, Sukanto Tanoto

January 2017 saw RGE representatives Mr. Anderson Tanoto, Director of RGE and son of RGE founder, entrepreneur and business leader, Sukanto Tanoto, and Mr. Tey Wei Lin, RGE President, attend the World Economic Forum (WEF), which was hosted in the peaceful, alpine resort town of Davos, located in Graubünden, Switzerland.

This occasion marks the convergence of some of the world’s most successful business-people, entrepreneurs and sustainability champions. RGE attended forums and discussions on thought leadership, emerging trends, the world economy and how to bridge the gap between the private sector and government and non-government players to be a force for the greater good.

Attendees at Indonesia Night

Attendees at Indonesia Night

Since 2015, company Chairman, Sukanto Tanoto has encouraged that RGE become a vital participant in the forum that takes place at the WEF, in an effort to best understand emerging trends and how the private sector can work hand-in-hand with both government and non-government entities to be beneficial for the community, the country, the climate and the company – the vital ‘Four C’s’ that define all of RGE’s operations.

Anderson Tanoto’s Reflections

Focusing on the theme of the 2017 WEF in Davos, RGE Director, Anderson Tanoto expressed that ‘responsive and responsible leadership is required; leadership with a radar and a compass.’

Tanoto stated that as a leader and businessman he believes that in having a moral compass, being able to judge what is right and wrong means: ‘Having a compass of knowing what is the true north and still doing the right things while the world continues to evolve’. He went on to say that RGE invests in the ‘long term, not the next three to five years, but rather the next ten, 20 years, or even longer’.

RGE celebrates continued Indonesian Tradition

As is tradition at the WEF each year, RGE sponsored the highly auspicious occasion of Indonesian Night. In partnership with the Indonesian government and business community, Davos delegates were introduced to traditional cuisine, cultural performances as well as insights into the business outlook of Indonesia’s economy – rated the 10th largest in the world.

As diverse as all the business groups are, RGE and Mr. Tanoto celebrate tradition and the common thread, the Four C’s that connects all entities. To follow RGE’s sustainability initiatives, business updates and social responsibility projects throughout Indonesia, Mr. Tanoto invites you to follow him on: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or LinkedIn.

Growing the Tree of Success Together: Under Sukanto Tanoto’s Leadership, APRIL Fosters Local Entrepreneurship Together.

Much has been made of Indonesia’s pulp and paper industry; it is an industry that has faced many ups and downs within and outside of the country, with challenges inherent to the industry well-reported. Much less mentioned has been the good that big players in the industry like APRIL – managed by RGE and founded by businessman Sukanto Tanoto – have managed to create for the community, by providing a platform and structure for economic development and lifting many out of poverty.

APRIL helps create an ecosystem for growth

Recent data released by the government showed that the pulp and paper industry contributed to 6.7 percent of Indonesia’s manufacturing gross domestic product in 2016, directly creating 260 thousand jobs and contributing to the creation of 840 thousand more jobs indirectly. These are staggering figures, and are the kinds of statistics that continue to validate RGE chairman Sukanto Tanoto’s 4Cs philosophy –creating good for the community, country, climate, and the company together. Likewise, companies managed by Mr Tanoto’s holdings company RGE, like pulp and paper giant APRIL, have sought to ensure their presence remains beneficial for everyone involved.

Asian Agri Learning Centre

Benefitting everyone, from the ground up

Government statistics do not tell the whole story either. On the ground, many Indonesians have felt a similarly positive influence from the continued presence of companies like APRIL. Kerinci resident, Sulaiman, recounts his story of how companies like APRIL, founded by Sukanto Tanoto, have allowed residents to move away from unstable working conditions, and helped Kerinci flourish.

“One of my staff members used to work odd times, helping his father, who is a fisherman and they barely earned Rp 1 million per month. Working here, they can earn more, and some can even earn up to Rp 4 million per month,” said the 38 year old businessman.

According to APRIL’s community development manager, Sundari Berlian, the company has registered 190 partners who work directly in partnership with APRIL. Furthermore, APRIL has already helped to create 90 thousand employment opportunities –a situation that businessmen like Sulaiman hope can continue. With Sukanto Tanoto’s philosophy firmly guiding the actions of all his companies, one can be sure that APRIL will continue to do good for everyone it works with, wherever it is.

Smallholders receive IDR 2.6 Billion from Tanoto’s Asian Agri in Palm Oil Partnership

Asian Agri, the major Palm Oil producer founded by businessman and entrepreneur, Sukanto Tanoto, recently concluded a 2.6 billion Indonesian Rupiah transaction with more than 29,000 grassroots partners at a Premium Sharing ceremony attended by the Indonesian Trade Minister.

Since its founding in 1979, Asian Agri has gone from strength to strength. Today, the company manages over 100 000 hectares of palm plantations, and has entered into partnerships with the Association of Village Unit Co-Operatives (KUD), in accordance with Mr Tanoto’s vision of community development.


A Sukanto Tanoto philosophy, creating partners in sustainably managed plantations

KUD represents 29 000 smallhold farmers in Indonesia’s Riau and Jambu provinces who manage a total of 60 000 Ha of palm plantations. Through their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, these small businesspeople have become important partners in the production of sustainable palm oil for export to markets across the globe.

Speaking at the Premium Sharing ceremony Indonesia’s Trade Minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, recognized the excellent partnership between small farmers and Asian Agri, which is one of the biggest players in the palm oil industry. The success of these partnerships is the realization of Sukanto Tanoto’s philosophy of a business that is good for country, climate, community and company.

Asian Agri director Freddy Widjaya attended the ceremony on the company’s behalf and presided over the completion of the large transaction that took place. Noting the enthusiasm for sustainably produced palm oil in the European market, he expressed his optimism about the future of this very successful partnership.

To find out more about this and other uplifting projects being undertaken by the RGE group of companies, please follow Mr Sukanto Tanoto via social media on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or LinkedIn.

A little less combustion, a lot more cooperation: How Sukanto Tanoto’s corporate philosophy doused the forest flames

People used to have poor impressions of companies dealing with natural resources – they would be accused of pillaging the environment, desecrating the lands, and leaving nature in a much worse shape than before. That might have been how it used to be, but not anymore. Under business giant Sukanto Tanoto’s corporate philosophy of the 4Cs –creating good for the community, country, climate, and the company – Mr Tanoto’s companies have set an example for the new way to go in natural resources management.

Working hand in hand: Making Riau fire-free, together.

Asian Agri, one of Asia’s leading palm oil producers with an annual palm oil production of one million tonnes, embraces Sukanto Tanoto’s 4Cs in their day to day operations. Asian Agri most recently showed their commitment to the climate and communities in which they operate, when they awarded 4 villages in Riau (where the Asian Agri group operates) for meeting the standards set out in the Fire Free Village Programme (FFVP). A total of seven villages took part in the programme, which meant that more than half the villages under the FFVP received an award. Under the programme, villages are encouraged to focus on aspects such as fire detection, suppression, awareness, and education.

A little less combustion, a little more cooperation: How Sukanto Tanoto’s guiding philosophy doused the forest flames

From a dream to reality: Commitment to the community, commitment to the climate.  

The FFVP, first initiated in July 2015, was pioneered by APRIL, one of the business groups managed by RGE. RGE – founded by philanthropist and entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto – manages companies including Asian Agri, Bracell, and Sateri, amongst others; their operations span across the globe in locations such as Indonesia, China, Canada, and Singapore.

The reward awarded to the four villages for their sustainable and safe practices stood at Rp100,000,000 (approximately USD7,530) each, totalling Rp400,000,000 (approximately USD30,120) for this round – funds which will go into developing the infrastructure and community of these villages. Under Sukanto Tanoto’s leadership and vision, these rewards have gone, and will continue to go a long way in keeping RGE and its business groups’ longstanding commitment in ensuring that the environment and communities partnered are empowered economically and sustainably, for the long run.