Jakarta. Tony Wenas is a multi-disciplined professional with more than 25 years experience in various sectors, including mining, natural resources and telecommunications.
The 61-year-old executive has served multi-national companies, including gold miners Intrepid Mines and Freeport Indonesia, as well as nickel miner Vale International.
His latest post places him at the helm of Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper, one of the largest pulp mills in the world.
The company, controlled by the family of Indonesian lumber tycoon Sukanto Tanoto, is facing various challenges, including accusations by environmental activists over the company’s alleged involvement in deforestation activities and the draining of carbon-rich peatlands.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, Tony, declined to reveal the process that lead to him replacing Kusnan Rahim as president director of RAPP, saying only that “ I have a good contacts with people at RAPP, including Mr. Sukanto.”
“I typically maintain good relationships with people I have worked with. ‘Don’t burn bridges,’ as the saying goes,” said Tony, a member of the Board of Advisors at The Nature Conservancy, an international non-profit organization that seeks to protect ecologically rich lands and waters.
Tony is not a new face at RAPP, a subsidiary of Sukanto’s holding company Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April), alongside paper producer Riau Andalan Kertas energy company Riau Power.
Tony was the president commissioner at RAPP from September 2011 to August 2012 after serving some of the world’s largest mining and natural resources companies.
The best part of the job
Tony was executive vice president and director of Freeport Indonesia from June 2001 through February 2010. He moved to Vale Indonesia that very same year, serving as president and chief executive until September 2011.
Freeport Indonesia is controlled by US mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, while Vale Indonesia operates under Brazilian mining giant Vale.
For his new role, Tony said he is fully aware of the mounting task of dealing with environmentalists who have persistently pursued RAPP.
In addition to improving operations and boosting profitability, shareholders are looking to him promote the company’s $17 million, multi-year ecosystem restoration program as well as its sustainable forest management policy (SFMP).
“I don’t want to be overconfident, but I strongly believe that we have a very good [environmental] program,” said Tony, a law graduate from the top-ranking University of Indonesia.
“If we can communicate it to the company’s stakeholders and the public, I am optimistic it would be well received.”
RAPP operates a 1,750-hectare manufacturing complex in Kerinci, Sumatra, which is one of the biggest single-site pulp mills in the world, producing up to 2.8 million tons of pulp and 820,000 tons of paper per year.
Operational since 1996, the plant’s PaperOne line of office paper product now sells in more than 75 countries.
Non-government organizations such as Greenpeace and Eyes on the Forest have run a number reports criticizing the mill’s dependency on mixed tropical hardwood, which it receives from suppliers who clear high-conservation-value forests (HCVF).
These areas are particularly rich in biodiversity and have both high ecological and social value.
The company has also been criticized for its part in draining and deforesting Indonesia’s peatlands.
When asked about his visions and missions, Tony said he seeks to guide RAPP in balancing social, environmental and economic imperatives, assuring that the company will stay committed to a sustainable forest management policy (SFMP).
RAPP has identified and protected 250,000 hectares of high-conservation-value forests within concession areas.
The paper producer also manages a further 40,000 hectares of eco-restoration projects as part of a 10-year, $17 million spending commitment to restore a peat forests in Riau’s Kampar peninsula, one of the largest natural carbon-absorbing areas in the world.
“We are working work toward the ‘one for one goal’ of conserving one hectare for every hectare of our plantation area,”said Tony, who has served as advisory board chairman for the South American committee at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) since 2011.
When asked about accusations that his company contributes to deforestation, Tony gave his assurance that RAPP only operates on degraded land allocated by the government as productive forest area.
RAPP’s parent company, April, made its initial public commitment to HCVF protection in 2005.
Last January, it declared a moratorium in concession areas throughout its fiber supply chain in forests where high-conservation-value assessments have not been completed.
Despite mounting criticism against RAPP, the former musician said the company’s economic contribution to the country is huge.
“Don’t forget, a company like RAPP creates up to 90,000 jobs, whether it’s direct or indirect. We also contribute significantly to [creating] infrastructure,” he said.
“Did you know that we have built up to 9,300 kilometer of roads? That’s twice the length of Java island.
“More than 2,000 of these are roads that the public can also access,” said Tony, who has also attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s business school and the MIT Sloan School of Management.