APP to Halt Clearing of Indonesian Tropical Forests (Again)

medium_Laurel_2012.jpegThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Greenpeace once accused Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) of “pulping the planet” because of APP’s wanton destruction of Indonesian rain forests. But after years of pressure from numerous NGOs including Greenpeace and WWF, things may finally be changing for the better. In June 2012 in response to customer pressure, APP published a ten year sustainability roadmap. Part of the plan was the expectation to be reliant on raw materials from plantations by 2015 and that by then all APP suppliers would follow the High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) standard. HCVF is an FSC forest management designation for forests that meet FSC forest stewardship criteria. The standard is designed to protect rare ecosystems, local community rights and biodiversity. Compliance to any standard depends on the integrity and transparency of the auditors, but following HCVF is at least a start.

According to APP’s update published this week, the company has added a new Forest Protection Policy. APP is suspending natural forest clearance and is committing itself to protecting all forests within its purview, including those on peatland. High Carbon Stock Assessments are underway and APP is adopting “international best practice for rights of indigenous peoples and local communities”. The company has also committed to independent monitoring by NGOs.

This seems to be healthy progress but APP’s history of sticking with its commitments is not good. Consequently WWF is urging companies to wait and see to what extent APP will make good on its promises. According to Aida Greenbury, head of sustainability for APP, “APP has committed to stop logging in all natural forest. We will only expand operations on open land and scrubland.” This is not a commitment to replant indigenous species, however that the destruction will cease is a massive step forward.

APP and environmental NGOs have a long and combatative history which APP would very much like to lay to rest. Their sustainability plan and Forest Protection Policy may have been established with the intention to appease the NGOs and reengage with big brand customers such as Walmart and Adidas who have turned their back on APP. The latest APP messaging isn’t much different from its messaging for many years but APP’s efforts have fallen short of its rhetoric. NGOs still allege that APP is linked to illegal forest clearance and destruction of Sumatran tiger habitats, so it’s time for APP to put actions to its words. In the meantime the printing industry should keep its distance and wait for APP to prove it has changed its negative environmental impact into a positive one.

– Laurel Brunner

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