Yogyakarta is a handsome city, 24 kilometres from the coast, surrounded by volcanoes, whose hillsides are, usually at least, covered in lush greenery from trees such as coconut, jack-fruit and mango. In the case of one of the most famous volcanoes, Mount Merapi, the landscape is less green at the moment. Activity from the volcano in November 2010 led to heat damage to trees over a huge area around the mountain. Villages were destroyed and the people who lived in them are being housed in a refugee camp while rebuilding takes place. This is about 45 minutes’ drive north from the Budi Makmur tannery.

Yogyakarta is, at 100 metres, high enough up and far enough away from the sea to have avoided damage from the pan-Asian tsunami of December 2004. But that event made a big impact on the whole of Indonesia. It suffered the greatest number of casualties (around  150,000) of all the countries affected and had 2,000,000 people displaced. In addition, 430,000 homes were  swept away, 5,000 miles of coastline devastated, 2,000 miles of road ruined, and 100,000 fishing boats damaged or destroyed.

The 2006 earthquake that destroyed the Budi Makmur raw materials store, clearly did affect the city and the surrounding area (including the Prambanan temple) more directly. It happened just before six o’clock on a May morning, causing more than 5,000 fatalities and leaving an estimated 1.5 million people in the region homeless. It measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. No Budi Makmur member of staff was injured, but on the day of the earthquake, chairman Haryono Sutanto travelled round the whole area visiting his workers to make sure everyone was all right. He accompanied the injured family members of his workers to hospital and gave assurances that the tannery would help pay for treatment. He is too modest to mention this, but tannery manager, Nugroho Rahmat, tells the tale. The tannery closed for a week to allow people to recover and put things in order as best they could at home before returning to work.

For all of these reasons, there is a heightened sensitivity in this part of the world towards environmental matters. With the possibility of life-threatening events from the sea, the sky and the soil, it’s impossible to ignore how delicate the world has become. “Those events have raised awareness of how the environment can affect everyone,”Haryono Sutanto says. “When you see the real thing, and it affects you directly, then you understand. For us, it’s certainly not just slogans.”