Fighting Fire with Film: Sukanto Tanoto’s APRIL Uses Innovative Approach to Cultivating a Fire Free Community

Sukanto Tanoto is one of Indonesia’s most famous and well-regarded businessmen. The Founder and Chairman of RGE, the global resource-manufacturing giant that manages companies such as APRIL, Sateri, and Pacific Oil and Gas, his companies collectively employ 60,000 people and own assets worth over US $18 billion. Growing from a small business by the busy streets of Medan to the global behemoth operating in Indonesia, China, Spain, Canada and Singapore, Sukanto Tanoto’s story is one of going from rags to riches.

Sukanto Tanoto’s 5Cs Philosophy Does Good

Fighting Fire with Film: Sukanto Tanoto’s APRIL Uses Innovative Approach to Cultivating a Fire Free Community

His success is not the only thing Sukanto Tanoto is known for, however. Sukanto Tanoto is well-known for his corporate philosophy of the 5Cs, to create good for the Community, Country, Climate, Customer, and Company in whatever he does. It is a philosophy focusing on the creation of shared value, and is one his companies have imbibed. Today, his companies are known for their insistence on doing good for those around them. Palm Oil giant Asian Agri, for example, is known for its strong support of government initiatives. Pulp and Paper behemoth APRIL, on other hand, is well-regarded for its community-based initiatives.

APRIL Uses an Innovative Approach to Promote Fire Prevention

Most recently PT RAPP, APRIL’s Indonesia subsidiary, kept up this tradition when it carried out one of its community outreach programmes to inculcate in villagers the importance of fire safety and prevention. Notwithstanding the immense threats of health hazards and economic loss, using fire to clear land is an unsustainable practice that APRIL has consistently tried to stop. Through programmes such as the Fire Free Village Programme and the Fire Free Alliance, APRIL has committed itself to preventing and stopping forest and land fires.

To further promote the idea of only using sustainable production methods, APRIL recently engaged local villagers and farmers of Tumang Village, Siak through the movies. The innovative idea, which successfully captured the attention of both the young and elderly, managed to impress upon locals the many drawbacks of using fire as a production method. It seems to have worked, too. Head of Tumang village, Muhammad Tahir, described how his villagers are now much more alert and aware of the need to keep the lands free from fire.

The use of innovative methods such as films to inculcate the importance of fire protection and prevention is part of APRIL’s commitment to sustainability and shared value creation. Sailal Arimi, APRIL’s Fire Free Village Programme Manager, said that such methods of fire prevention are an important avenue for APRIL, given the ease of understanding that films provide and the high level of enthusiasm they manage to create.

Visit to Kerinci by Catholic Junior College Students: Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong

Visit to Kerinci by Catholic Junior College Students: Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong

A group of students from Singapore’s Catholic Junior College visited Kerinci, the heart of APRIL’s operations, as a reward of their winning entry at the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s CUBE 2015 competition. Inside RGE catches up with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong as they reflect on their 3D/2N trip. Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong from Catholic Junior College on their visit to Kerinci

Inside RGE: Can you share your top 3 favorite activities from your visit to Kerinci?

Timothy: One of my favorite places is the Kerinci Central Nursery as it taught me about the initial process of paper making. Making paper is not as easy as cutting down trees and extracting pulp, but requires manual labour for choosing the best genetic species and the best “grade A” plants that have to be trimmed and given specific amounts of water to maximize their growth. The nursery helped me to understand the intricate details necessary to produce the best paper products.

Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong from Catholic Junior College on their visit to Kerinci

My next favorite activity is the fire prevention presentation done by Craig Robin Tribolet. The presentation gave me greater insights into the causes and problems of fire in Sumatra, and the more complex problems of how to resolve them. The presentation also helped me to appreciate the clean environment in Singapore, and sometimes the haze problems in Singapore are nothing compared to the problems here.

Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong from Catholic Junior College on their visit to Kerinci

Another favourite is the Fire Posko where we learned the different techniques of fire fighting and even got a chance to get some action by spraying water on a “burning” car. We also had fun spraying water on each other.

Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong from Catholic Junior College on their visit to Kerinci

Nicholas: Like Timothy, I enjoyed Craig’s presentation very much. I also enjoyed visiting the nature school. Through these destinations, I was able to gain a better understanding of the paper production process as well as the risks involved.

Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong from Catholic Junior College on their visit to Kerinci

Craig’s presentation also enlightened me that there is no one single solution to the fire problems in Indonesia and that collective efforts are key to ensuring the reduction of forest burning.

Furthermore, visiting the nature school was a huge reward as I got to see a school based on the environment and nature conservation while preparing the students for the future.

Through this trip, I was able to understand more about APRIL and its operations. I see how APRIL is actively participating in the local activities and aid the workers by equipping them with life skills. It is heartening to find out that APRIL is actively pursuing sustainable development.

Interview with Timothy Koh & Nicholas Wong from Catholic Junior College on their visit to Kerinci

Inside RGE: Did you feel that the visit gave you a better understanding of the paper industry?

Timothy: My initial thoughts on the industry were filled with skepticism. However, after the trip, I felt that APRIL has introduced many policies, regulations and efforts to ensure that their business does not operate solely on wealth, but on sustainability as well.

Nicholas: I feel more empowered as an influencer now that I have had a first-hand experience of the Kerinci plantation and am equipped with the facts surrounding rural development and paper production.

Editor’s Note: APRIL, a company under the RGE group, has been a Platinum Sponsor of CUBE since 2014.

RGE Achievements in Kerinci – A Small Town Reborn in Record Time

Not many people have heard of the small town of Pangkalan Kerinci – commonly known as Kerinci. This community of about 100,000 inhabitants is, however, a true gold mine for the pulp and paper industry, providing the world with more than 800,000 tons of paper and 2.8 million tons of pulp each year.

Considered the nerve center of the RGE (Royal Golden Eagle) Group’s main operations in the industry, coordinated by chairman and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto, Kerinci is regarded today as one of the most striking examples of how industry leaders, the government and local communities can work together to boost the infrastructure and economy of an entire city.


Remarkable Growth in Less Than 25 Years

Before the RGE arrived in Kerinci, the town was a more or less forgotten area with only 200 dwellings, no reliable roads, and a bleak prospect for locals to make money solely from fishing or engaging in illegal logging.

25 years later, however, the town is an example of prosperity, with more than 11,000 km of new roads being laid in the area, a local power plant working mainly on sustainable resources that can produce in excess of 530 MW of power, and even a small airport, as well as two shipping ports, used for transporting the pulp and paper produced in Kerinci to various locations worldwide.

Made possible by the integrative philosophy of Sukanto Tanoto‘s RGE group, working together with the local community to continually boost both the company’s pulp and paper production and the prosperity of the local population, these incredible progresses are a testament to how the corporate group’s approach to business growth can be used for achieving success.


New Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Another important area in which the RGE group operates – and which has probably impacted the lives of the local population in Kerinci more than anything els – is represented by the palm oil operations engaged by Asian Agri (one of the Group’s most important members).

Asian Agri has worked closely during the past two decades with the Kerinci community to manage thousands of hectares of plantation and provide high quality palm oil to the world.

In turn, local workers have gained the opportunity to become smallholder farmers and have been provided with remarkable opportunities for growing their own businesses and increasing their levels of prosperity to the point that they managed to buy new homes and secure their children’s future.


Sustainable Advancements

Sustainable forest management policies and the remarkable guidance of RGE have boosted operations in the Kerinci area considerably.

More recently, the RGE Technology Center has also become involved in the work through research and sustainable development geared for producing natural predators to suppress pests and gain higher yields for production. Planting experts have managed to optimize reforestation, and carefully prepare eucalyptus and acacia leaf cuttings to be planted in the plantations.

Together with a policy designed to balance environmental, economic and workforce-related factors, the many advancements brought to Kerinci are expected to lead to even higher success for the group and for the local community during the next 10 years

Fighting Fire with Film: Sukanto Tanoto’s APRIL Uses Innovative Approach to Cultivating a Fire Free Community

The Remarkable Benefits of Healthcare Initiatives Facilitated by the Tanoto Foundation

Through its most recent philanthropic endeavor, the Tanoto Foundation has partnered up with RAPP (Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper) – one of the foundation’s corporate partners also linked to well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sukanto Tanoto – to create new opportunities for improved healthcare in the Gunung Sari village in Riau.

The program sought to train medical cadres in the area, and achieved great success throughout the community, reflecting once more on the RGE Group and the Tanoto Foundation’s concern for the community.


Training for Healthcare Personnel

The main goal of the program was to provide quality, professional training for local medical staff, while also providing the community with assistance geared toward facilitating simple, routine activities for helping people living around the operational areas of PT. RAPP.

All assistance was provided through a health clinic located in Gunung Sahilan, and one of the major activities had to do with assisting mothers in receiving health support – as part of a larger initiative towards helping to decrease the numbers of child, infant and childbirth deaths in rural areas like the Gunung Sari village.

As an additional bonus, the program also brought numerous benefits geared toward improving the community’s well-being. Food packages were provided for families in need, and services such as free circumcision were also on the agenda, ensuring that disadvantaged families could still benefit from them.


Community Response

The community responded in an extremely positive manner to this remarkable gesture made by the two organizations that helped them realize there are still people out there who actually care about making a difference and fighting poverty. Local members of the community have expressed gratitude and great admiration for both RAPP and the Tanoto Foundation, while also pointing out many of the other advantages that these institutions have brought over time.

Aside from this health program, others have also been facilitated in the past. What’s more, the area has enjoyed quite a lot of attention from the Tanoto Foundation and from PT. RAPP, through projects for improving education and granting scholarships to local children, as well as support for infrastructural development.

The head of the clinic at Gunung Sahilan was also extremely supportive of the endeavor and voiced her hope that further assistance can be given in the long run through continual support and clinical training, so that the children in the area can receive better treatment in the following weeks, months and years.


Long Term Goals and Plans

This type of training program is part of a constant initiative that Sukanto Tanoto and the Tanoto Foundation are hoping to increase over the next few years. Although the mortality rates and health risks in Indonesian rural areas have subsided over the past few decades, they are still alarmingly high, and the fact that a large portion of the country’s inhabitants are still living below the national poverty line is definitely not an encouraging fact.

Nevertheless, due to efforts such as these growing in number, there is quite a lot of hope that the situation in areas like the Gunung Sari village can drastically improve in the next few years.

Fighting Fire with Film: Sukanto Tanoto’s APRIL Uses Innovative Approach to Cultivating a Fire Free Community

Sukanto Tanoto’s Initial Rise Towards Success: A Young New Business Leader

Sukanto Tanoto was still quite young when he was forced to spend less time at school and focus more on helping his family with their business. Prior to his father’s health problems, young Sukanto’s parents continued to encourage his education, despite the local political unrest in the country that caused road blocks and sparked danger for many of the local inhabitants.

Sukanto Tanoto

Taking Over the Family Business

When his father suffered a minor stroke, Sukanto Tanoto stepped up to take a leadership role in the family business, working hard to do the management work that his father previously carried out, handling invoices, receipts and various other types of documents.

By typing, he was able to continue learning Bahasa Indonesian, and he soon realized just how vital your education can be when you’re trying to become successful in the business world. Amidst constantly-growing unrest, however, Chinese schools were forced to close, and the young business leader soon had to decide to dedicate all his efforts towards managing and improving the family business.

The Start of a Successful Business

In 1966, Sukanto Tanoto’s father closed the shop and provided young Sukanto with the remaining stock of parts, so that, soon after, he would be able to open his very own spare parts business. In January of 1967, this dream became reality, as the aspiring entrepreneur used the knowledge and resources he gained by managing his family business to begin his own endeavors in Medan.

At the age of only 17, young Mr. Tanoto started working full time on managing his business with only 4 employees and about $30,000, mainly gained through spare parts inventory.

It was incredibly hard work. Together, the team worked very closely and coordinated each action with precision. For 15 hours a day, they dedicated their entire time to managing all the tasks that needed to be performed at the spare parts store and, despite all the hard work, spirits remained high, since they basically worked together as a family.

Nevertheless, with more and more foreigners arriving in Indonesia, all that work paid off and business was better than ever. Just three years after beginning his first business, Sukanto Tanoto was clearly on the path to success, managing to secure 3 million Singapore dollars in the bank; what with Chinese schools in Indonesia still closed, he provided his brothers with the means to continue their education in Singapore.

New Business Opportunities in Indonesia

As foreigners continued to arrive at the shores of Indonesia, Mr. Tanoto knew that he had to profit from this positive development, and, while continuing to learn the secrets of successfully managing his business, he also started learning English one word at a time, using a simple Chinese-English dictionary.

Again, the young entrepreneur’s foresight paid off, and again he proved that through his continuing drive to learn as much as possible, he could aspire to higher and higher goals. By 1970, he was able to start a new business using solely his own funds, becoming a contractor and supplier for a company known as Pertamina – operating in the petroleum and natural gas industry.

Two years later, Sukanto Tanoto became the proud owner of CV Karya (later renamed KARPEL), and, through his determination and constant study, he managed to make all the right choices to become one of the most competitive suppliers on the market.