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If graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies has taught me anything, it’s that the journey to sustainability is not straightforward at all, and that environmental issues are often complex and straddle many spheres. With that consideration in mind, APRIL’s Sustainability Professional Development Programme stood out among other opportunities in the sustainability field. The nature of APRIL’s operations means that its sustainability professionals work over a wide range of roles and environments, and the rotational nature of the programme would allow me to deploy and refine my skills in these many contexts.

Career in April - - Sustainability Professional Development Programme

During our orientation process, we were introduced to the various parts of the company. This two-month process was an exciting time of learning, and we had the chance to engage with APRIL staff from various departments in the company - all the way from nursery to product sales. Sustainability truly is intertwined along a whole company’s operations, and having an overarching understanding was essential before we made our deep dives. Other than the technical knowledge gained, an equally valuable outcome of this orientation was getting to know colleagues from all parts of the company.

My first rotation is with APRIL’s sister-company Asia Pacific Rayon (APR), which is co-located in the same complex as APRIL and produces viscose-rayon. APR’s mill was only recently commissioned in December 2018, so it has been really exciting to be part of the start of the journey. Sustainability in textiles is a hot topic, and there has been a real push to make the industry more sustainable. In viscose manufacturing, there has been a lot of progress in recent years, and robust industry standards have been developed. Part of my job scope in APR has been to create a knowledge base of industry standards and best practices, and integrate these into targets that the operations teams can work towards. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from Sateri - the group’s viscose business in China - who have a wealth of expertise in sustainable viscose production. The process has really shown me how important it is for sustainability professionals to understand the ground and have open communication channels with the operations teams.

A particularly interesting project has been APR’s ‘Follow our Fiber’ project. Supply chain traceability has been a particularly hot topic and with the project, APR is hoping to push the boundaries of traceability innovation. Not only is APR securing the integrity of its supply chain data with blockchain technology, it is providing traceability back to plantation and nursery in collaboration with APRIL - which supplies most of its raw material. What I loved about working on this project is that I was able to pull in the knowledge I had gained during my orientation, and help to bridge understanding during the discussions. On the APR side, this meant helping to visualize how we could represent the sometimes complex supply network during the app development process, whereas in conversations with APRIL, I could communicate what key insights APR’s stakeholders would want to see. As a (relatively) young person, working on this project is especially exciting, as I believe the new generation of sustainability champions hopes to see industry making use of innovative technologies to tackle key challenges. A key part of the project is an app that users can interact with, and I hope that it can be a key engagement platform for this group.

The journey so far has been exciting, no doubt because there are always new conversations around enhancing current sustainability initiative or starting new ones. There’s always plenty to learn and perhaps more importantly, plenty of places to put that learning into practice.

James Chang

James Chang joined APRIL’s Sustainability Professional Development Programme in 2018 after completing a Bachelor’s of Environmental Studies at the National University of Singapore. For more information on APRIL’s Sustainability Professional Development Programme click here

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