Indonesian-born, self-made entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto ensures that each of the companies in his RGE Group takes their responsibilities to the environment seriously. As part of Mr. Tanoto’s philosophy of corporate social responsibility, his companies such as Asian Agri, Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), Pacific Oil & Gas, and Asia Symbol strive to utilize advanced technology and careful environmental oversight in their operations, and to provide the general public with environmental education.
Corporate social responsibility regarding the protection of the environment is a relatively new concept, dating back only to the years just before World War II. Yet it has come to be increasingly embraced by large corporations throughout the world. Business leaders have realized that it not only makes good environmental sense to act as stewards of the natural resources they use, but it also has become more and more important to staying profitable. For example, APRIL practices a strict “zero burn” policy within its wood pulp concessions on the island of Sumatra, and it has instituted a rare level of institutional transparency through its APRIL Dialogue website and its ongoing fire-tracking mechanism. Through these methods, the company acts as a source of information for government and the public alike regarding the occurrence and severity of fires throughout the region.
The American philosopher John Dewey, writing on business ethics in the early 20th century, gave his opinion that corporations do not exist as purely mechanisms for deriving profits, but as stakeholders in the welfare of the community. The United Nations has addressed corporate responsibility for the environment in its Millennium Development Goals and other documents, and at its World Summit on Sustainable Development.
While some writers on the topic believe that corporate social responsibility should be legislated, others find that companies on their own may be trusted to put some environmentally sound practices into action. Still others recognize that companies such as those under the direction of Sukanto Tanoto are already focusing on both the practical and social benefits produced by corporate social responsibility commitments.