Tey Wei Lin, President of RGE, outlines why actionable commitments and targets can drive an increase in sustainability-linked finance and provides a comprehensive overview of the matters at the heart of the company’s 2030 sustainability agenda.


The urgent transition to a greener economy has seen the inexorable growth of sustainability-linked loans (SLLs). In 2021 alone, some US$21bn was raised from 49 deals in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan), which was a record 332% growth year on year.

Singapore-headquartered RGE was among the first non-property corporates in Singapore to tap SLLs, highlighting the fact that financial institutions acknowledge that it is possible for businesses like ours to both produce from the land and protect it, with positive results for business and nature.

Financing that has clear environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets for borrowers to meet has become a common driver of more sustainable business impacts. For example, in the fourth quarter of 2021 RGE secured two SLLs totalling US$1.65bn for our palm oil business Apical and our pulp, paper and plantation business APRIL, with further SLLs being negotiated this year for RGE businesses.

As more businesses decide to adopt SLLs, specific and measurable ESG objectives embedded in loan terms will further align banks and businesses on a common sustainability journey in support of business growth.


Actionable commitments and targets

SLLs are, however, just one element of more holistic and urgent actions businesses can and must take. By sharing RGE’s journey, I hope to demonstrate that ambitious investment and action can deliver real results.

As one of the major players operating in the growing global bioeconomy, we are committed to sustainable development in all locations where we operate. To bring that commitment to life, we are focused on implementing best practices across social, environmental and economic spheres as guided by our 5Cs business philosophy – that whatever we do must be “Good for the Community, Good for the Country, Good for the Climate, Good for the Customer, and Good for the Company”.

In recent years, there has been a major shift by companies to set out and work towards clear sustainability targets to 2030 or 2050. Defining and announcing policies and targets is however just a first step – actions with measurable impacts must follow on the ground, where it counts.

Our policies, targets and actions were consolidated into an ESG framework, translated into policies and high ambition levels in the 2030 sustainability agenda of the individual business groups – from APRIL to Asia Symbol, Sateri to APR, Apical to Asian Agri.

We have been making significant progress by eliminating deforestation, conserving and restoring thriving landscapes and biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions, enhancing traceability and transparency and investing in technology to drive a more circular business.

Five key areas form the core of our 2030 sustainability agenda, reflecting wider global trends and evolving stakeholder expectations:

  1. No deforestation

For any business in the land use sector, the biggest risks are usually present in the supply chain. To address this risk, we have for many years committed to and ensured that there is no deforestation occurring throughout our entire supply chains. Our businesses and third-party wood suppliers can only develop areas that are not forested, and we are achieving greater supply of raw materials through R&D-led intensification of yields from our plantations, without expanding our existing plantation footprint. All our supply is traceable to ensure it comes only from sustainable sources and this is audited and verified by independent third parties.

We have also worked with local communities to prevent forest destruction beyond our own operating areas, including reducing the incidence of and damage caused by fire. APRIL’s Fire Free Village Programme (FFVP), for example, has equipped many of Indonesia’s local communities with more sustainable land management and farming methods. Now covering over 800,000 hectares or more than 10 times the size of Singapore, the FFVP has resulted in a 97% reduction in the land damaged by fires surrounding our operations.


  1. Conservation and restoration

As a forestry business, we can produce from the land, but we must also protect it.

At Cop21 in 2015, we announced an investment of US$100mn over 10 years to support the conservation and ecosystem restoration of deep-forested peatlands in Indonesia, and we have invested another US$70mn to secure eco-restoration licenses for former production forests.

At APRIL, of the 390,000 hectares of forest that it conserves, 150,000 hectares consist of the Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) project, a pioneering private sector-collaborative project to restore and conserve one of the remaining peat forest areas in Indonesia. The RER sits right in the middle of APRIL’s plantations that act as a protective ring for the conservation area. Over time, the RER has resulted in more empowered local communities, through sustainable economic activities and employment as well as a more biodiverse landscape. It is also emerging as a global hub for scientific research into tropical peatland landscapes and biodiversity protection.

To further integrate biodiversity and carbon protection in our production landscape, APRIL has also committed to conserving one hectare of forest for every hectare of plantation and is 80% of the way to achieving that target. It has also committed further funding of US$1 per tonne of fibre harvested to investments in nature, conservation and restoration. This makes at least US$10mn a year available for conservation initiatives under its management or in partnership with conservation NGOs, communities and other stakeholders.

In China, another of our businesses, Sateri, has embarked on a five-year partnership with Conservation International to restore the health and biodiversity of Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake.


  1. Emissions reductions by 2030, net zero by 2050

Decarbonising operations is a critical focus for companies as part of tackling climate change. We have set aggressive targets to reduce the use of fossil fuels and cut emissions across scope 1, 2 and 3, to ultimately achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Today, 85% of the energy requirements in our mills at APRIL and Asia Symbol are met through renewables including bio-mass and solar. We are further closing the gap with recent solar power installations in Indonesia and China.

In Brazil, we have built the world’s largest and greenest pulp mill. Designed to be 100% fossil-fuel free, the mill, which manufactures flexible and biodegradable cellulose products, has the largest recovery boiler in the world and a biomass gasifier which turns cellulose by-products into biogas. Not only is the mill self-sufficient in energy generation, but excess energy produced there supplies 180 megawatts of green energy back into Brazil’s national grid.


  1. Traceability and transparency

Science-based and data-driven best practices must underpin the traceability of products to their origin. Our palm oil business Apical, which recently won the gold award for ‘Asia’s Best Supply Chain Reporting 2021’ at the Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards, has reached 100% traceability to mills and 99% traceability to plantations. Several initiatives, such as the Traceability Outreach Programme for suppliers and SMallholder Inclusion for better Livelihood & Empowerment (SMILE) Programme for smallholders, have been implemented in recent years.

Follow Our Fibre, the blockchain tool of our viscose-rayon fibre business APR, enables sustainable sourcing throughout the supply chain, allowing users to access information in real-time on the source of raw materials in garments and origination of the fibre.


  1. Technology investments and partnerships to promote circular economy

Building a more circular economy is being achieved through investments in technology solutions and partnerships across many sectors. In the area of textile fibre innovation and technology, we have committed US$200mn to work with innovators, industry partners, research institutions and academia to scale up solutions that will deliver cleaner and more circular cellulosic textile fibre that are still affordable to consumers.

New partnerships formed by RGE include a five-year textile recycling research collaboration with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and a three-year strategic partnership with the Textil and Fashion Federation, Singapore which seeks, among other goals, to advance research and innovation with circular economy approaches to fashion waste in Asia. Our in-house R&D team has made good progress in producing quality viscose using retired cotton textiles as feedstock.

By shaping business models around ESG principles, with strict monitoring, reporting and verification standards, companies can drive net-zero carbon and nature-positive impacts, not just within their own operations, but through the entire value chain to the benefit of all stakeholders.

As a resource-based company, our aim is to improve the lives of people by producing essentials that feed, clothe and energise the world – in a sustainable manner. It is our hope that showing by doing will encourage others to join us in driving a cleaner, greener and more circular world.