“We call ourselves a business family—not a family business,” Anderson Tanoto, 28, says about manufacturing conglomerate Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), which his father, Sukanto Tanoto, founded 50 years ago and in which Anderson and both his sisters currently hold roles. The trilingual siblings live and work in Singapore but travel frequently within Indonesia and to their facilities around the world, from China to Brazil. “We’re in a resource-based valley, but we’re also a global company with assets in excess of $18 billion,” says Anderson, a director at RGE. “So it’s very important to be close to our raw materials, but also close to our consumers and customers.”
The siblings’ parents frequently brought them along on site visits to Indonesian fields and plantations. Imelda Tanoto, 35, says she was always just as interested in the people working for the company as in its pulp, paper, and palm oil. She’s since built her career in human resources—at a company that employs some 60,000 people across five continents. “Because we’ve always been part of this business, we understand how it has grown over time,” says the RGE executive committee member. “You make sure the right people are in the right roles, with the right tools.”
Meanwhile, Belinda Tanoto, 32, dedicates most of her time to the philanthropic arm of the company—the Tanoto Foundation. (All three siblings, plus their eldest brother, Andre, are trustee members at the foundation.) Providing access to quality education across Indonesia, China, and Singapore is a foundation pillar—at least 700 academic scholarships are funded annually—but Belinda is also tackling the related issue of rural poverty. She recently collaborated with major philanthropists and various aid agencies, including the United Nations Development Program, on a landscape mapping of regional efforts. “Poverty is a multi-dimensional issue, and it can’t be solved by just our foundation,” she says. Her goal? To form strategic partnerships for some serious change.
It’s this next generation of leadership —and a willingness to adapt to a changing environment—that will preserve the company’s DNA moving forward. “What sets us apart is being unafraid of challenges and instead finding opportunity in them,” says Imelda. Take, for example, the company’s journey toward sustainability and renewable resources: RGE has long operated under three values (good for company, community, and country), but two other “C’s”—climate and customer—were added last year. “Companies can produce, but they can also protect conservation forests in the process,” says Anderson, who spearheaded a $100 million pledge to restore and protect one hectare of forest (or about 2.5 acres) for every hectare of plantation.
In the same spirit of legacy, the siblings continue to deepen their shared connection to the School. Along with their support of the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing, the family launched the Wharton Tanoto Initiative to offer research grants, academic programs, and scholarships in Southeast Asia. Says Anderson: “We’re always trying to see how we can form synergies—how can we make the region benefit from Wharton, and vice versa?”—Amy Downey