A Chat on Sustainable Business: Wharton-SMU Global Modular Course

The advocacy for sustainable development continued when RGE and the Tanoto Foundation hosted students from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Singapore Management University (SMU) to an evening of dialogue on sustainable business on 22 June 2019.

Held at SMU, the session was part of the Wharton-SMU Global Modular Course (GMC), now into its fifth instalment. The GMC is part of the Tanoto Foundation’s Tanoto Initiative at the Wharton school, which seeks to elevate awareness and research in Southeast Asia, while building stronger academic ties between the Wharton School and premier institutions in Southeast Asia such as SMU.

Responsible Business: What Does That Mean?

The evening kicked off with a fireside chat moderated by Professor Janice Bellace, Director of the Tanoto Initiative and Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School. Themed “Responsible Business – What Does That Mean?”, the panellists were Fang Eu-Lin, Partner at PwC Singapore; Bey Soo Khiang, RGE Vice-Chairman and APRIL Group Chairman; and Anderson Tanoto, RGE Director and Tanoto Foundation Board of Trustees member.

Mr Bey Soo Khiang shared how important the 5C’s principles were to RGE companies – that the viability and sustainability of a business rest not solely on business acumen and decisions, but how it must continue to do good and create value for the community, country, climate and customers.

He added the United Nations adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has come at an opportune time, providing the framework and language to help RGE companies realise their 5Cs principle. A clearer iteration of the previous Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs not only provide a broader and more holistic definition of sustainable development, but also embrace the participation of private companies and non-state actors, while at the same time giving more focus on how development needs are contextualised.

To that end, RGE companies and Tanoto Foundation have continued with efforts at understanding needs of communities within their operation areas and implemented programmes to help spur and accelerate sustainable development.

Business Actions with SDGs

Wharton and SMU students visit RGE companies' operations in Pangkalan Kerinci.

Wharton and SMU students visit RGE companies’ operations in Pangkalan Kerinci.

Mr Anderson Tanoto shared with the audience that RGE companies embed SDGs into their business. For instance, business actions are linked to SDGs, and some management KPIs reference components of the SDGs. He believed this would drive the support of business outcomes that are also sustainable development outcomes.

Ms Fang Eu-Lin also noted during a visit to APRIL Group’s operations in Pangkalan Kerinci, that despite the company owning a very high-tech mill facility, it continued providing employment for women in the community, who could otherwise be replaced with logistics automation. She then acknowledged the company’s quiet commitment to responsible and connected partner of the community, something that Professor Janice Bellace also reaffirmed.

More on the fireside chat at the Singapore Management University website

The group later visited Pangkalan Kerinci. Highlights of the visit are captured in the video below.

Tanoto Foundation Wharton-SMU GMC - Sustainable Growth in Indonesia