Collaborated approach needed to end deforestation

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Last month I had the opportunity to attend an executive briefing where Asia Pulp and Paper’s (APP) Managing Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Engagement, Aida Greenbury shared with customers, NGOs and other key stakeholders the challenges of implementing the company’s Forest Conservation Policy (FCP).

Australia has always been an important market for APP, with Solaris Paper established in 2007 and Paper Force operating here for more than two decades. To have Aida presenting in front of our industry’s key opinion leaders and NGOs following the one year anniversary of the FCP on 5 February was hugely significant.

I was reminded of the complex journey that APP has been on for the last couple of years, which has seen an immediate end to all natural forest clearance throughout APP’s supply chain. Aida explained that although several milestones had been reached, there still remains a great deal to do.  And – understandably – many still have questions. As she said, this is a good thing: every question is an opportunity to test the systems in place and prove APP’s commitment to the FCP.

That’s what this briefing was all about, openly answering questions on what APP has done to date, and what it has committed to do in the future to improve its business and combat deforestation.

It was refreshing to see environmental organisations, which had previously been some of APP’s fiercest critics, at the briefing. What a difference to see those who used to actively and vocally campaign against our business, asking questions about how the ambitious FCP is being implemented.

Questions came from some of the leading campaigners at Greenpeace, WWF and The Wilderness Society. Greenpeace has played the important role of ‘critical friend’ to APP since the development of the FCP and commitment to end deforestation within its supply chain. As Aida said, although the NGO no longer campaigns publicly against APP, it still has plenty to say around the boardroom table.

APP’s journey to date hasn’t simply been about mapping and assessments, it has also been about changing the culture of the company and the way it operates. A large amount of time and resources have been spent embedding transparency within the business, including introducing new initiatives such as an online monitoring dashboard and an independent NGO observer programme. These allow customers and stakeholders to track FCP progress and give feedback on how aspects of the FCP operations can be improved.

Aida also highlighted the biggest lessons learned since 5 February 2013:

Firstly, although APP is proud of what it and many partners have achieved to date, there is still a huge amount of work ahead: the FCP is a strategy of continuous improvement.

Secondly, the goal of achieving zero deforestation across Indonesia cannot be reached by one company alone. If it is to be successful in this bigger goal, other businesses, government, local communities and NGOs must collaborate more effectively in an effort to truly protect rainforests and peatlands.

Although there have been challenges, APP’s FCP is a positive step towards ending deforestation. A collaborated approach will ensure its success and hopefully encourage other companies not just in our industry, but across many others, to adopt zero deforestation within their supply chains.

You can read more about APP’s FCP in its One Year Anniversary Report here. We will also have a video available soon with highlights from the executive briefing.