Aksantara Team Builds Indonesia’s Best Aerial Robot of 2014

Students from Indonesia’s Bandung Institute of Technology recently won the Indonesia Aerial Robotics Contest (IARC) of 2014. Every year, the country’s Ministry of National Education and Culture sponsors the contest, which is the oldest collegiate aerial robot design competition in the world. The Aksantara team received first prize in the fixed wing category, as well as the best design award and the best presentation award for a university. Among the team’s supporters was the Tanoto Foundation, the nonprofit organization created by Indonesia’s Sukanto Tanoto, a self-made entrepreneur who concentrates on funding educational initiatives and other programs that can help lift underserved communities out of poverty. The Tanoto Foundation currently partners with more than two dozen Indonesian universities to award scholarships and to sustain other educational enhancement programs.

Led by aeronautics and astronautics student Rivaldy Varianto, the Aksantara group initially consisted of a small team of like-minded students that later expanded to welcome others studying in different areas of the institute. The team members built on what they had learned during the previous year’s competition to come back stronger in 2014. Speaking for the team, Varianto described the students’ hopes that their work can assist Indonesia in building its research and development capacity. Ultimately, they would like to see their country take a leading role in supplying global markets with advanced aerial robotic technologies.

Team Aksantara from ITB and their winning creation
Team Aksantara from ITB and their winning creation

Aerial technology, such as that produced through the IARC, can play a vital role in a nation’s disaster response and natural resource management capabilities by monitoring hazards such as forest fires. Sukanto Tanoto’s $15 billion RGE Group of corporations includes Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), a wood pulp producer that aims to pioneer new, more effective methods for fire tracking throughout its agricultural concessions.

Through competitions such as the IARC, Indonesian higher education students can begin to assume their places as technologically sophisticated innovators in an increasingly competitive world.

 

Law Professor Strives to Understand Singapore’s Haze Problem

Simon Tay is a professor of international law at the National University of Singapore, the founder of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), and a former three-term Nominated Member of the Singapore Parliament. In addition, he serves as a powerful voice on topics affecting the quality of life for all Singapore’s people. In November 2014, Tay authored a piece for The Straits Times, one of Singapore’s leading newspapers, on his “personal journey” through the environmental issues surrounding the haze problem plaguing his country and the greater region.

In the article, Tay discussed the complex nature of the problem. Recurrent clouds of smoky haze originating largely from forest fires in Indonesia have crossed the Strait of Malacca for decades, blanketing Singapore and Malaysia. The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory conditions and other health problems associated with this type of pollution.

The rapid boom in natural resources-based manufacturing taking place within Indonesia’s developing economy is the ultimate cause of the haze, which sometimes comes from fires that ignite on plantation lands owned by large corporations. In other instances, small farmers, without a direct affiliation with a corporate partner, may set fires on their own or company-owned lands through lack of education about the environmental impact, or deliberately as the cheapest means of clearing lands for cultivation.

Attributing the fires to specific sources has proven difficult, even for experts, because of unclear demarcation of land boundaries on current maps, as well as the limited technological means for verifying details about the causes of the fires.

Tay has long maintained a deep concern about the transnational haze problem. When it came most prominently to his attention, in the late 1990s, the Indonesian government was in a deep political and economic crisis, with little ability to fight the raging fires that the United Nations had declared a global disaster situation. In the years since then, new national and international laws have attempted to bring order to the problem, with varying degrees of success.

SIIA/NUS guests in Kerinci with Anderson Tanoto and APRIL’s fire management team
SIIA/NUS guests in Kerinci with Anderson Tanoto and APRIL’s fire management team

On a recent trip to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Tay spent time with Anderson Tanoto, who represented the RGE Group of manufacturing companies founded by his father, Sukanto Tanoto. Tay wrote of his tour of lands under cultivation by APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited), the RGE company dedicated to producing wood pulp products, and by Asian Agri, another RGE firm devoted to palm oil production for a global market. Tay was impressed with APRIL’s and Asian Agri’s focus on containing and fighting fires in a systematic manner, and with the companies’ commitment to sustainable practices. As Anderson Tanoto pointed out, it makes good business sense for a natural resources-based company to keep environmental stewardship foremost in its planning. Without careful oversight of wildfires and other hazardous conditions, APRIL and companies like it would lose the very raw materials they depend on for their livelihoods.

 

APRIL Partners with Community on Zero Burning

Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), a constituent company of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), was proud to award a recent community development grant of 100 million Indonesian rupiah to a local village successful in reducing fires on its lands. RAPP and APRIL are responsible for a large share of the production of wood pulp and paper products on the global market, and are part of the RGE Group founded by Indonesian-born entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto. Because of Mr. Tanoto’s focus on following best practices in corporate citizenship and environmental stewardship, his executive teams place the welfare of local communities at the heart of their business operations. The grant to the village of Teluk Meranti in October 2014 rewarded that community for its efforts to implement RAPP’s zero-burning policy on its lands.

Teluk Meranti, part of the Pelalawan regency in Riau Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is one of four village communities participating in RAPP’s pilot project, which is held during the summer dry season. Village chief H. Hasan, upon accepting the award from Pelalawan’s regent, described how his community would use the funds to improve local infrastructure. Other villages in the project include Pulau Muda, Sering, and Teluk Binjai.

RAPP Village Incentive Award

Fires in Riau’s villages, both on and outside of pulp- and paper-producing lands, often start as part of traditional community waste management practices. RAPP and APRIL have devoted extensive recent efforts to educating rural communities about the dangers associated with such fires, which can burn out of control and produce haze that reaches across the Strait of Malacca to Singapore.

The first reports received from the pilot project indicate that it has achieved overall success in reducing such potentially devastating fires. The program has gained extensive local government support, including that of the Pelalawan police department, as well as government entities dealing with environmental concerns, disaster response, and forestry.

New RAPP Program Works to Minimize Forest Fires

PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper, or RAPP, has initiated a new fire management program in the Pelalawan Regency of Riau Province, in cooperation with local government agencies that manage forest lands, enforce environmental protections, and deliver disaster response. RAPP selected four villages to participate in a pilot program to curb forest and land fires. Through this “Fire Care Village” program, a village that managed to avoid fires completely from July to September would be awarded a special bonus of 100 million Indonesian rupiah in assistance, the equivalent of more than $8,000 USD. Villages in which fires affected less than 1 hectare of land, and in which residents controlled the blaze within 24 hours, would receive 50 million rupiah.

RAPP, a subsidiary of APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited), is among the constituent companies of the RGE Group, the $15 billion corporation established by Indonesian entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto. As such, RAPP takes its responsibilities as a corporate citizen seriously. Following Mr. Tanoto’s business philosophy based on keeping the needs of company, community, and the planet equally in mind, the APRIL concessions in Riau practice a zero-burn policy and strive to maintain compliance with all applicable regulations and environmental best practices. Innovating to find new ways of crisis management (in this way is forest fire) is also part of the important criteria of a successful entrepreneur.

RAPP’s Fire Care Village program came in response to extensive forest and land fires that occurred in Riau in the spring of 2014. The situation became so dire that the Indonesian government declared a state of emergency. RAPP executives noted local village residents might need added incentives to take an active role in fire management.

Forest Fire Management

International environmental organizations viewed the spring fires with concern. One group listed more than 3,000 verified fire alerts on Sumatra for the period from late February to mid-March. June through September is typically Indonesia’s dry season, and the country saw very few fires during the early spring of 2013. The spring 2014 figures are far higher than those during a June 2013 fire and haze crisis on the island. Experts believe that unusual drought conditions in Sumatra in the early part of 2014 contributed to the problem, with the majority of the fires occurring in Riau.

Environmental organizations admit difficulties in gathering accurate data on exactly which concession boundaries any particular fire has affected. The situation is a complex one, and the solutions will require better communication between government agencies and companies, as well as better monitoring systems on the ground. RAPP continues to look for ways to take a leading role in fighting this shared problem.

RAPP Shows Off New Surveillance Quadricopter at Riau Expo 2014

At the 2014 Riau Expo trade and industry show, representatives of Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper demonstrated a safety-focused innovation. True entrepreneurship never runs away from constant innovation. RAPP always strive to innovate to create better products or processes that benefit the community, the country and the company.

Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), part of APRIL, or Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, recently participated with a demonstration booth at the Riau Expo 2014. RAPP and APRIL, part of the $15 billion RGE Group under the direction of founder and CEO Sukanto Tanoto, are among Indonesia’s most well-known natural resources manufacturing companies.

At the expo, RAPP representatives demonstrated the capabilities of the quadricopter, a new remote-controlled, helicopter-like aircraft that the company aims to use to monitor remote plantation lands. This is an especially important mission in the more isolated parts of Riau, where fires can break out and spread if unchecked, increasing haze conditions in the broader region. RAPP and APRIL have made significant progress in addressing safety concerns from environmental groups and local communities through their careful monitoring of fires and haze formation throughout their concessions.

RAPP organizers also provided information to visiting high school students and other expo attendees about its other recent initiatives, its community involvement programs, and current trends in the wood pulp and paper industries.

The Riau Expo, an annual event held in the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, promotes trade, tourism, and industry throughout the province, and also showcases the arts and cultural expressions of the people of Riau. This year, every available booth space was purchased, making the event a rich display of local knowledge and entrepreneurship. The networking opportunities at the expo additionally served to further new business connections and innovations.

Deputy provincial governor H. Arsyadjuliandi Rahman officially opened the expo, which took place from September 21st to 27th and commemorated the 57th anniversary of the creation of Riau Province. Organizers invited not only companies from the private sector, but provincial, district, and city government agencies to participate.

RAPP Booth at Riau Expo 2014
RAPP Booth at Riau Expo 2014
RAPP Booth at Riau Expo 2014
RAPP Booth at Riau Expo 2014

APRIL Responds to Opportunities and Challenges

One of the most important ability of an entrepreneur is adaptability – how do you react to opportunities and challenges? In today’s business world, there are factors that are changing all the time – from political changes, product changes, environmental changes and even changes in customers’ wants and needs. Being able to adapt alone is no longer enough because the time taken for a company to react tends to determine if the company is able to compete in the market. Thus, one needs to adapt and react FAST in order to remain as market leader. It is even better if there can be preventive measures taken to proactively address potential problems before they turn into a crisis.

Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), headquartered in Singapore, operates as a fiber, pulp, and paper manufacturer under the RGE Group of companies directed by founder Sukanto Tanoto. APRIL recently noted that if newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration is able to meet expectations for an expansion of the country’s infrastructure, he could assist in growing the capacity of the paper industry by as much as 20 percent by 2016. The boom coincides with an increased demand for pulp and paper products from China and other rapidly industrializing countries in Asia. By 2015 alone, many experts believe, the pulp and paper industry could grow as much as 5 percent.

While demand for paper products has been on the decline in North America and European nations, largely due to an increased use of online resources to store and disseminate information, the push from the Asian market is expected to swell total global demand by about 2.6 percent annually in the coming years.

Industry experts based in Indonesia have noted an oversupply in that country’s pulp and paper market, and have commented on the need for government assistance to keep the sector competitive. In 2013, the total amount of paper products manufactured reached 6 million tons, nearly half of which came from facilities owned by Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), a subsidiary of APRIL.

In another recent development, non-governmental organizations have challenged APRIL and other pulp and fiber companies doing business in Indonesia’s Riau Province by claiming that fires set on company land had brought a smoky haze as far as Malaysia and Singapore. APRIL, which recently set up its APRIL Dialog website to provide greater operational transparency for the public, provided a detailed response.

Pointing to satellite images offered by the NGOs that purported to show the locations of numerous fires on APRIL concession lands, company executives noted that they found evidence for only a single fire detected in the specified time period. And that fire appeared to have originated within APRIL lands set aside for community use and not within the zones used for production.

A company spokesman also noted that APRIL, which maintains a strict “zero-burn” policy throughout its concessions, would have no logical reason to destroy the very natural resources essential to its operations. With a finite amount of land available for expansion, RAPP and APRIL understand that optimizing existing resources is key to corporate survival in a competitive market. And as a leader in its sector, RAPP has developed an understanding of its role in serving as a model of sustainable practices going forward.

And these, are just some of the ongoing changes in the industry that keep APRIL on their toes all the time.

APRIL – Cooperating to Solve Southeast Asia’s Haze Problem

In August 2014, the government of Singapore passed a new law in an attempt to combat the problem of industrial smoke and haze spreading over a span of borders. The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act sets a legally actionable threshold relative to the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI). Singapore’s media outlets have reported on the widespread appearance of haze that has often seemed to emanate from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the location of a number of palm oil, wood pulp, fiber, and paper manufacturing companies that farm the land through concessions.

haze

The new law sets government fines to be levied against companies that pollute at $100,000 daily, capped at $2 million. The cap, which was previously set at $300,000, was raised after public debate on the issue. To be held in violation, a company needs to show that it contributed to a PSI of 101 or greater over a 24-hour period. And individual citizens and other companies may also file suit against polluters, with no limit yet established for damages.

As the first legislation passed in Singapore to attempt to cope with a longstanding problem, the measure attempts to move manufacturers toward greater accountability for adhering to sustainable and environmentally sound practices. However, the law may prove extremely difficult to enforce, since it aims to penalize actions committed within the borders of another sovereign nation.

Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) and its subsidiary Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), part of the RGE Group of companies under the direction of founder and CEO Sukanto Tanoto, take their responsibility to foster sustainable development seriously. The pulp and paper companies operate a large concession in Sumatra’s Riau Province, and APRIL is among the world’s leading producers in that market segment. As an entrepreneur, it is important to be responsible and accountable to the stakeholders of your business – in particular, playing your role as environmental and social steward. It is only through these continuous effort that a business is able to maintain competitiveness and be sustainable in the changing needs of the world.

Due to Mr. Tanoto’s strong focus on sustainability and responsiveness to local communities, APRIL is committed to efforts to provide increased operational transparency. The company, which has held to a “zero-burn” policy since 1994, has consistently sought innovative ways of leading in sustainable forestry practices. The company has directed $1.5 million to a program of fire management, infrastructure, and training, and it maintains a rapid-response team of more than 600 personnel. In addition, it offers a “fire tracker” feature as part of its APRIL Dialog website, which is designed to provide up-to-date communications with the public regarding any detected fires.

As a company whose profits rely on a steady supply of wood and forest products, APRIL has no financial interest in setting fires on its own lands. Its historical evidence shows that fires that have encroached on its property have originated either outside its concession borders or among the residents of its set-aside community lands, who often find burning to be an inexpensive means of clearing smallholder lands.

 

APRIL Dialog Website Aims to Keep the Public Informed

APRIL, or Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, is among the natural resources manufacturing, wood pulp, and fiber-producing companies that comprise the RGE Group headed by Indonesian businessman Sukanto Tanoto. Under Mr. Tanoto’s direction, APRIL has increasingly focused on environmentally responsible, sustainable forestry and land-use practices. In working to comply with all relevant government regulations, and with international industry best practices, APRIL strives to exhibit transparency through its day-to-day operations and as part of its long-term strategy.

Among the company’s  recent efforts in this regard is the development of a website, APRIL Dialog. Through APRIL Dialog,  the site aims to offer information about best forestry practices in general, and APRIL’s work in particular, to all interested stakeholders. The website also provides a means for communication with the public, who are invited to share their questions and concerns online. In addition, the site provides up-to-date information about haze and hazard conditions through a “fire tracker.” The highly useful feature offers maps showing the coordinates of current fires, as well as their causes and real-time firefighting operations.

April Dialog

On the site, APRIL staff have provided information on topics such as sustainable development in Indonesia, the true causes of deforestation in developing areas, and recent events in the field of forest management in the country. Taking a proactive approach, the APRIL Dialog website also offers a section addressing accusations leveled against the company by environmental groups and others concerned about over-development in Indonesia. APRIL believes that its emphasis on sustainable practices is borne out by the available evidence, even as it works to answer substantive concerns by stepping up its policies and procedures. APRIL welcomes assessments of its compliance levels and other practices.

Some articles posted on APRIL Dialog:

Addressing the Complex Causes of Forest Fires

APRIL INCREASES FIRE MONITORING IN CONCESSION AREAS

The website also offers information about the current actions of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which APRIL developed and welcomed on board as a means of providing an even more transparent look at its operations.

Wood Pulp Industry Working to Develop Sustainable Practices

APRIL, one of the world’s largest pulp, paper, and fiber manufacturing companies, operates as part of the RGE Group, which is based in Indonesia and directed by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sukanto Tanoto. Sustainability is a crucial determining factor to the success of a company. In order to have a lasting business model, one needs to think of how to best develop sustainable practices.

Through working closely with a variety of interested parties, including a Stakeholder Advisory Committee composed of a team of independent experts, APRIL adheres to the highest possible standards of environmental stewardship as it monitors the fire-prevention, sustainability, and social issues associated with its operations. The company maintains more than 200,000 hectares of protected conservation forestland on Sumatra near its wood and pulp processing mill. Its Wood Purchase Policy assists in guarding against illegal logging operations through a tracking system and a chain of international certifications.

APRIL Plantation
APRIL Plantation

APRIL, and the wood pulp and paper industry in general, have increased their focus on sustainable practices over the last few years. Aware of the impact of any business that makes extensive use of natural resources, corporations like APRIL have begun to rely more and more on transparency and dialogue with local community groups in the regions in which they do business. With the developing world’s increasing demand for products such as timber and wood pulp, the issue of sustainability has evolved into one that affects the entire world. China, which has a burgeoning export trade in wood and paper products, is comparable to many other rapidly developing nations in its recent focus on implementing comprehensive reforestation programs in order to keep pace with usage.

Thanks to increasing government involvement and interest in promoting the industry, Indonesia has become a key player in the international wood pulp products market. The country had already reached a spot among the top 10 nations in the field a decade ago. With APRIL and similar companies taking more comprehensive looks at long-term strategies that make good sense both economically and environmentally, sustainability may now be a more achievable goal.