When Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) began working to put its zero-deforestation policy into practice, the company was, its head of sustainability admits, entering uncharted territory..
"We had no blueprint in our hands – there were several gaps in our cost-benefit analysis and in our business case," says Aida Greenbury. But the point of departure was clear: "No market will accept products associated with deforestation. You simply cannot survive if you can't sell your products."
Since the announcement of the policy, in 2013, the Jakarta-based company has adopted a number of progressive approaches;working at the landscape, rather than the plantation level; adopting a policy of 'ultra-transparency', involving releasing the full list and maps of its pulpwood suppliers; and committing to retire plantations on around 7,000 hectares of peatland.
The process has required APP to work alongside and educate its pulpwood suppliers, often as new approaches are being developed. For example, Greenbury notes that methodologies to implement the High Carbon Stock concept, which aims to distinguish between the most important areas of forest for conservation and degraded forest, have only recently emerged.
"We've had to train and educate our suppliers step by step," she says. Greenbury adds that their suppliers are open to working with APP on its deforestation efforts– "the people who pushed back, we've already disengaged from" – but they have a lot of questions around the details of implementation.
"For example, we've just finished blocking 400 canals – we've had to explain to suppliers why these need to be blocked, and in a certain way, to protect peatland. It can be very tough to explain – especially in a country like Indonesia, where the concept of climate change was only introduced perhaps 15 years ago," she adds.
Key to APP's approach is involving suppliers in the decision-making process. Once the company has received the results of its High Conversation Value, High Carbon Stock, and peatland assessment, it will return that data to each concession. "They will be responsible for leading the development of an integrated sustainable forestry management plan," and they will be expected to consult with local communities and NGOs. "It's no longer top-down – it's bottom up."
The approach is intended to give concession operators ownership of the process. In return, they will receive support from APP. "For concessions who are willing to implement our conservation policy, we are committed to work with them, and invest in them."
The recent fires in Indonesia illustrate the importance of working across the entire landscape: forest habitats don't recognize concession boundaries.
APP has deployed more than 3,000 firefighters to tackle the blazes, but the company also recognizes the need for longer-term solutions – in the shape of alternative economic opportunities for communities living next to and within valuable forest. For example, APP works with concession operators to develop, where appropriate, community-focused enterprises, such as acacia plantations and agroforestry projects, which provide income for local communities without requiring forest clearance.
The ultimate objective for APP? To secure a long-term, sustainable supply of pulp fiber in a way that balances the commercial interests of the company and its suppliers with those of the environment and the communities living in and around its suppliers' concession areas.
But, as the company recognizes, its efforts in isolation will not be sufficient. "We are a big company with significant resources, but we are only one actor among many in the landscapes in which we operate. We need all actors in those landscapes to pull in the same direction if we are to achieve meaningful change," says Greenbury.
"We are a big company with significant resources, but we are only one actor among many in the landscapes in which we operate. We need all actors in those landscapes to pull in the same direction if we are to achieve meaningful change."
Aida Greenbury, Managing Director Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, Asia Pulp & Paper