INDONESIA – After many years of criticism by environmental groups and losing supply contracts with major MNCs, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has now pledged to cease all deforestation activities.
The paper giant released a new Forest Protection Policy on 5 February in which it states that from 1 February 2013 it will immediately suspend all natural forest clearance - including that done by suppliers. HCVF and HCS policies will be applied immediately to any further expansion or development of APP’s business.
Independent assessments will also be made to identify areas of high conservation value that will be protected through a long-term management programme, while High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessments undertaken by The Forest Trust (TFT) will identify all forested areas, enabling APP to ensure that future plantation development does not take place in forests.
In addition, APP says it will adopt international best practice for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, particularly with respect to the ‘Free and Prior Informed Consent’ (FPIC) of indigenous peoples and local communities where new developments are taking place.
Most importantly, APP is encouraging independent monitoring by NGOs, and says it “will consult with NGOs and other stakeholders to ensure that its protocols and procedures for FPIC and conflict resolution are in accordance with international best practice.”
Teguh Ganda Wijaya, Chairman of the APP Group, said, “This is a major commitment and investment from APP Group. We are doing this for the sustainability of our business and for the benefit of society. We hope our stakeholders will support our new Policy, help us along the way and urge other industry players to follow.
“APP is a world leader in the pulp and paper business, and we will act as leaders are expected to do.”
While he noted that this would present challenges to suppliers, Robin Mailoa, CEO of Sinar Mas Forestry, said, “Sinar Mas Forestry is completely committed to the implementation of our new forest conservation policy across our whole supply chain. It will present challenges for our suppliers, but I am confident that with support of our stakeholders across government and civil society, we can ensure its success.”
Aida Greenbury, APP Managing Director for Sustainability, said: “APP has today committed to protect all natural forests across its supply chain as part of its plans to support the Government of Indonesia’s low carbon development strategy for our economy.
“Our new Forest Conservation Policy sets our company on course to be a leading world-class paper company solely based on sustainable plantation sources.”
Greenpeace welcomes news with cautious optimism
Greenpeace, a strong critic which in recent years started putting pressure on APP by persuading customers to suspend supply contracts, welcomed the news and said “this really is just the beginning of change for a company that has heavily relied on deforestation for too long.”
Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace’s forest campaign in Indonesia, said he is “cautiously optimistic”, and added that the environmental group has decided to suspend its campaign against APP “for now”.
“No one is under any illusion that making commitments is going to be enough. APP will need some time and space to show that its new policies are being implemented. We very much hope that the company will use this time to also work with other stakeholders to find solutions which both protect forests for the long term and which can help resolve social conflicts,” Maitar said.
Noting that “it’s clear that the commercial pressures and reputational impact of losing major customers around the world is very important,” Maitar added: “We will be watching very carefully to ensure that APP is delivering where it really matters – on the ground, in the rainforests.
“Our advice to former customers of APP reflects that: policy commitments will not be enough – it's only through their delivery that APP can start to win back the business that it has lost in recent years.”
APP has failed to carry out similar commitments in the past, including an agreement with World Wildlife Fund (WFF) signed in 2003 to protect high conservation value forests over an initial 12-year period.
In 2004, WWF cancelled the agreement, saying APP had failed to make any progress.
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