Endangered species have returned. Fires have been absent for almost three years. Communities have been engaged and their members, given alternative livelihoods. These are several of the highlights in Riau...
Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by Ong Kok Chung, a 21 year old advocate for the environment who recently helped organise the Global Compact Network Singapore Youth Forum. He is a freshman at the National University of Singapore.
As part of the follow-up event for Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS) Youth Forum, I was very honoured to have a chance to visit APRIL’s operations to learn more about the production processes behind one of the largest paper producer in the world. Our trip was a learning journey that exposed us to different parts of the whole paper production process, and also showed us how APRIL actually gives back to the communities in the rural areas as well as provide welfare for the people of Pangkalan Kerinci.
We landed in the private airport and saw neatly arranged rows of tall trees of different heights, later finding out how they would be transformed into paper. We then proceeded to RGE Technology Centre (RTC) to understand more about how APRIL as a business group of RGE started and evolved through the years. At RTC, we were given an overview of how Mr Sukanto Tanoto had kept close to heart the principle of responsible corporate citizenship and how he built the RGE group bearing this principle in mind. His heart for environmental sustainability spurred him to start APRIL Group and started building mills and developing plantation in the Riau islands. In the process of that, believing in the need to do good for the country, he had created massive employment opportunities and supported a lot of community development initiatives to increase the standard of living in the region. This is a remarkable attempt by him to both build his company and his community together at the same time and I admire Mr Sukanto Tanoto for actually turning such a big vision into reality.
Next, we got to see first-hand the education contributions APRIL have done to the rural community. In the school, we found out from the teachers and headmaster that their school was the only school that provided International Baccalaureate (IB) education in the whole Riau province; which just showed its advancement in development, and the high levels of education being provided for the region. Students there were taught English and had many creative curricular components such as art and craft and learning of the aungklung a lot of other activities to develop their cognitive skills and values. The environment in the school was favourable for learning and the students were extremely well-mannered. The whole visit just goes to show how on par the students in Indonesia are with the students in Singapore and I am heartened to know about that because I feel that everyone deserves good education.
At lunch, we got to eat cultural Indonesian food while we listened to an engaging presentation on APRIL’s response operations to situations where people do not act responsibly on their own land, for example by burning the harvested crops and causing harm to the community around them. This goes to show again that APRIL operates with a vision of helping the community and doing good for the society. They have initiatives to reward the community with amenities in the region to improve their standards of living and work together with other groups to do a ground up effort in ensuring the responsible use of their own land.
Next, we proceeded to see the fire rescue team by witnessing the professionalism, teamwork and diligence they have in their work to ensure that the region is fire free and no lives are lost to fires. Their speedy reactions and strict discipline of ensuring that “no smoke can be seen” before they clear the area affected by the fire has proved that they are capable to take out fires and ensuring the region’s safety.
Proceeding to the plantation next, we went behind the scenes to see how trees were grown, how the pulp was extracted for use later. The strict restrictions and qualification process of the crops and the leaves showed just how much importance APRIL placed on the quality of their paper produced. The whole method of planting is guided by science and the company’s philosophy on sustainability and this will ensure in the fastest and regulated growth of the trees together in the forests.
Finally, we visited the paper mill where we learned about the back-end process of designing machinery and teaching skilled workers to use them; this was to ensure that the paper produced are consistent and high. We also saw for ourselves the amount of paper produced per day and how much paper in the whole paper industry is produced at this very own factory itself. I was very fascinated with the whole machine process in how they have the paper differentiated in different sizes and packaged with that huge amount of mechanical processes. Now, knowing the trouble behind producing that stack of paper that ends up on my desk, I learn to appreciate the effort behind producing it and will not misuse or waste it.
This trip gave me valuable insights of how a company can grow together with the community and the world by helping them along. I applaud APRIL’s vision and strategies to ensure that everyone wins and hope to bring that ideology to more companies around the world.