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Sustainability: Susilo Sudarman

Susilo Sudarman was apprehensive when he was asked by APRIL management to move from Jakarta to Pangkalan Kerinci in 2014, knowing little beyond the fact that Pangkalan Kerinci was a small town in Sumatra.

A graduate of the environmental studies program at the University of Indonesia, Susilo had previously been part of the team responsible for kick-starting the Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) project, an APRIL initiative to restore and conserve 150,000 hectares of peatland forest in the Kampar Peninsula.

Checking growth as part of APRIL Group's sustainability team

Following that, he became APRIL’s Sustainability Compliance Manager, with the main responsibility of ensuring that the company’s suppliers follow its zero-deforestation sustainability policy.

"It’s a tough job to do because we have different management. We do not directly control their companies. But we have to engage them very closely, share our best practices and ensure they implement them. When it comes to sustainability, we need to be transparent about how compliant we are, and demonstrate how we and our partners are supporting sustainable production," Susilo says.

When he and his family first had to move to Pangkalan Kerinci, they "had all sorts of questions about daily life, about what the people were like there, and what there was to do for fun."

"But then we came here and realized it’s quite different. It’s a cohesive and multicultural community with people of all ethnicities and nationalities – this is what sets Pangkalan Kerinci apart," he says.

Just a year later, when Susilo was offered the opportunity by management to return to the Jakarta office, he declined. "I said ‘no thanks’. Pangkalan Kerinci is very comfortable, and it’s home to me now," he says.

Susilo went on to become the proud founder of two prominent clubs in Pangkalan Kerinci - the Vespa Club, and Adventure Club Andalan Riau (ACRA). The Vespa Club comprises 27 members who have a shared love of the iconic scooters, and the team can regularly be seen riding around Kerinci. ACRA has 60 members who hike, climb, cave or dive regularly.

APRIL Group sustainability

ACRA was formed with the knowledge that Indonesia, being situated within the Ring of Fire, is prone to many natural disasters, Susilo explains. "We hope that ACRA members, who are environmental-lovers by nature, will gain survival skills so that they will be able to help if needed," he says.

Susilo says that it is easy to find like-minded people who share the same interests in Pangkalan Kerinci, pointing out that it is the kind of place which allows for more quality and meaningful relationships to be formed.  He credits APRIL for enabling these connections.

"There are plenty of facilities available at APRIL’s Riau Complex which can be used by not only APRIL employees, but other members of the community too. Among these are the sports amenities, which can be all used for free," he says.

However, APRIL’s support towards employees carries deeper significance for Susilo personally. The company not only bore the costs of sending him to James Cook University in Queensland, Australia to complete a short course in environmental studies, it also allowed him the flexibility of taking up a separate Master’s degree at the University of Indonesia while he was working.

"I covered the school fees at the University of Indonesia myself, but APRIL gave me the time to attend classes," Susilo says. With a Friday and Saturday class schedule, Susilo was allowed to take time off work after lunch on Fridays to attend university, managing to complete his postgraduate degree in three years.  "It’s worth more than money or funds actually, when a company is supportive towards your studies."