Second ASPiRE Trainee Finishes Rotation at APR

When Brett Chun Hao Yang embarked on his undergraduate journey in chemical engineering at the University of California, he would never have imagined himself working in sustainability at a rayon company in a small town in Riau, Indonesia, eight years later.

Brett, 28, is an ASPiRANT, the name given to participants of APRIL Group’s ASPiRE (APRIL Sustainability Professional Readiness) Program, an 18-month accelerated talent program designed to recruit and train individuals with a passion and belief that doing business sustainably is the future.

ASPiRE Program - APR
Brett Chun Hao Yang, from the second batch of ASPiRE program

The program participants undergo six-month rotations at APRIL as well as its sister company Asia Pacific Rayon (APR) in the town of Pangkalan Kerinci – which is where Brett started his ASPiRE journey.

“I studied finance and management for my Master’s in Loughborough University, which was not related to sustainability, but I personally have great interest in the topic,” Brett said.

Having spent time as a process engineer in the manufacturing field, Brett saw the potential impact a company and its people can have on the community and environment simply by making current conditions or processes more sustainable.

“So it was one of my goals to pursue a career in sustainability, and I was fortunate to come across the ASPiRE program when I was job searching, so I applied. It seemed to be the only sustainability-related development graduate program available at the time.

“I wanted to improve my sustainability knowledge, see first-hand how it can be applied in reality, and what impacts a company can cause when dedicated to it,” Brett said.

When Brett was selected as one of the only three program participants for ASPiRE 2019, he was excited but also slightly apprehensive.

“I had no knowledge whatsoever of Pangkalan Kerinci and didn’t really know what to expect about working here. It was only when I arrived that I found out the Riau Complex is a great self-sustaining town which provides me with everything I need. I find that I have a really great work and life balance here,” he said.

For his first rotation, Brett worked from November 2019 to May 2020 as part of APR’s Sustainability Team and APR’s CS2 (Carbon Disulfide) Recovery Team.

APR - ASPiRE Development Program
Brett discusses a project with a colleague at APR

It was quite obvious from the start that ASPiRE and APR would provide a steep learning curve for him to quickly gain knowledge about the different aspects of sustainability in business, he said.

“My work focused on improving the chemical recovery rate in our viscose rayon manufacturing process.

“Due to my engineering background, my role as a sustainability professional was to become the bridge between APR’s different departments, and push various projects to reach the chemical recovery rate targets we have set for our operations,” Brett shared.

Brett added that the job also involved helping the operations employees to better understand the importance of implementing sustainability in the company’s processes and business.

Another interesting part of the job for him had to do with APR’s involvement in supporting and creating sustainable fashion.

“I think sustainable fashion is definitely an urgent topic. I had to research on ‘fast fashion’ during my rotation and I honestly didn’t know until then how much negative impact consumers can have on the world with our fashion choices on a daily basis.

“Around 10 per cent of global greenhouse cases are caused by the fashion industry – which can also contribute to animal cruelty, child labour, pollution and more. These are things we don’t see or realize most of the time,” Brett said.

Brett said it was therefore an invaluable learning experience to see how APR is engaging and collaborating with various like-minded stakeholders.

“Besides striving to improve production in all aspects, APR also continuously supports local surrounding communities at all times with programs such as providing training to SMEs, distributing household supplies at affordable cost to these communities, with the profits going to orphanages,” he said.

For Brett, the best part of ASPiRE was having the opportunity to work on actual issues related to sustainability – an experience which may not be offered as part of other development programs.

ASPiRE Program - APR
Brett (L) having a discussion with his colleagues at APR

“Moreover, I had great mentors who always helped me on various issues, professional and personal. I learned different strengths from each of them, and I’m really grateful for that.

“At the last sustainability meeting we had, the whole team wore party hats in celebration of my completion of my rotation at APR. It will always be memorable because I will always remember a great team that communicates, strives and works well together. That is what I see in the APR Sustainability Team,” he said.

Going forward, Brett is interested in seeing how APR transitions further into achieving a circular economy.
“It won’t be easy, but it will be an exciting and interesting journey for sure.

“As for myself, I want to utilise the frameworks and sustainability concepts I have learnt at APR to continue to improve businesses.”

Brett Yang was part of the second intake of the ASPiRE Program. He completed his first rotation at Asia Pacific Rayon (APR) in May 2020, and is currently on his second rotation at APRIL.


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