About 200km away from Singapore lies a slice of paradise on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, home to Southeast Asia’s largest peatland forest.
The woodland, once ravaged by logging and agricultural activities, has transformed into over 150,000ha of pristine wilderness more than twice the size of Singapore. Sparkling waterways meander through thickets of green, providing a haven for endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger and sun bear.
The vast tract of land is part of the Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) initiative, a project started by the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group. It has restored and conserved swathes of ecologically valuable Indonesian forests since 2013.
More than just being a precious home for wildlife, the RER today is also crucial for a healthy climate – vast reservoirs of carbon captured from the atmosphere are absorbed by the trees and ground. The area is also a symbol of the company’s sustainability efforts.
As a key producer of sustainable raw materials that go into manufacturing daily necessities such as paper, green packaging, edible oils, energy and clothes, the group strives to ensure that there is a green footprint in all its operations.
“Sustainability means while we produce from the land, we must also protect it,” says RGE vice chairman Bey Soo Khiang.
From forest to fashion
RGE’s sustainability approach is anchored by 5Cs – doing good for the Community, Country, Climate, Customer and Company. It has also embedded ESG (environmental, social and governance) considerations in all its operations, which are aligned with the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a key initiative to ensure that Singapore remains liveable for future generations.
This means RGE is always looking to involve more partners on its green journey.
For example, it collaborates with the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions on the RER to develop carbon projects that will help combat climate change. As part of the three-year collaboration with RGE, the university will also receive funding for staff costs, scholarships and other operating expenses.
At the same time, RGE is also teaming up with organisations in Singapore to give other sectors a green boost.
One example is the textile industry, which contributes about seven per cent of global carbon emissions. Difficulties in recycling textiles have also added to a burgeoning waste issue. It is projected that a staggering 90 million tonnes of textile waste are being disposed of annually, with the number estimated to reach 134 million tonnes by 2030.
While Singapore does not manufacture textiles, it contributes to the carbon footprint by importing clothes. As the world’s largest producer of viscose rayon – a nature-based material commonly used in clothes – RGE believes it can make a difference and is looking to tap the country’s Research & Development capabilities for solutions in textile recycling.
Textile recycling initiatives
In November 2021, RGE collaborated with Nanyang Technological University to establish a Sustainable Textile Research Centre that will develop innovations in textile recycling technology over the next five years.
“We hope this will go a long way towards realising Singapore’s aim of being a sustainable low-waste economy and positioning Singapore as a leading regional centre for new sustainability solutions,” says RGE’s executive director Perry Lim, who leads the project.
Beyond the lab, RGE also inked a three-year partnership with the Textile & Fashion Federation (TaFF) that aims to drive sustainable industry practices in the fashion community through programmes, research projects and education.
“Getting everyone excited about sustainable fashion is a good place to start,” says RGE’s president Tey Wei Lin. “Industry partnerships such as this have a role to play in encouraging enterprises to embrace sustainable fashion.”
Standing strong together
These initiatives are a testament to how far RGE has come from its humble roots as a spare parts supplier that started in a shophouse in Medan, Indonesia. RGE chairman and founder Sukanto Tanoto was only 17 years old when he had to drop out of school to support his family after his father fell ill. That was how Toko Motor, the genesis of RGE, came to be.
Today, RGE manages a global group of companies across various industries with more than US$25 billion (S$35 billion) in assets, employing 60,000 employees. This year also marks a significant milestone for RGE as it commemorates 55 years in the business.
Sharing his journey, Mr Bey says, “I joined RGE 12 years ago and have personally witnessed the transformation and growth of the company. As a Singaporean, I have also seen Singapore come a long way as it turns 57 this year.”
Despite global challenges like climate change, wars, economic crises and supply chain disruptions ahead, RGE believes there is still much to look forward to.
“The stakes are high, and it will take collective will to ensure that Singapore remains a beautiful home for future generations,” says Mr Bey.
RGE is confident this can be achieved as long as everyone – individuals, companies and government leaders – is united in spirit and purpose.