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Asia Pulp and Paper: why activists are wrong over destructive logging allegations

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Issue date: 
January 31st, 2011
Publisher Name: 
The Ecologist
Aida Greenbury
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Timber Procurement


The paper giant has been accused by Greenpeace of destructive logging and green-washing. But campaigners are mistaken, says APP boss Aida Greenbury - the company is supporting REDD projects and putting sustainability at the centre of operations

The recent partnership between Indonesia and Norway, designed to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of forest and peatlands (known as REDD), is truly historic. For the first time, two countries, so different in geography and history, are working together to find a workable solution to the twin issues of tackling climate change and reducing poverty in the developing world.

In 2011, we will see the implementation of the first stage of the Norway-Indonesia partnership: a two-year suspension on new concessions for conversion of natural forests and peat lands into plantations. This period - the ‘Moratorium’ - has received a great deal of publicity worldwide. What is less well known is that it is just the first step in a long-term plan to create a viable economic model for REDD. The press release from the Norwegian and Indonesian governments stated:

'By 2014, the plan is to move to an Indonesian-wide instrument of funding contributions in return for verified emission reductions. Funds will be managed by an internationally reputable financial institution according to international fiduciary, governance, environmental and social standards.'

Root causes

I am not certain the international community has truly grasped the significance of REDD. While the United Nations Convention on Climate Change struggled yet again to reach any kind of meaningful agreement at the 2010 Cancun Summit, Indonesia is pressing ahead with the development of a project which addresses the root problem: finding a way for developing countries to make big cuts in carbon emissions without harming their ability to grow economically and reduce poverty. Sure, there are many details to work out from here, but let’s celebrate the progress so far.

As one of Indonesia’s leading pulp and paper producers, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) has a real stake in the outcome of the Moratorium. Our perspective is not the one which most stakeholders in the West expect. In November last year, an extremely distinguished international news magazine claimed that Indonesia’s pulp and paper companies were ‘furiously trying to scupper’ the Moratorium. This stirred me into writing a letter to that publication pointing out that Asia Pulp and Paper was on record, several times, indicating its total support for the two-year suspension on new plantation concessions.

Why would we take this view? As a large producer, is it not in our interests to simply add more and more forest concessions to our portfolio? This is certainly the view of several Western-based NGOs, who have repeatedly attacked APP over its sustainability policies and practices. Those, like me, who spend their whole lives immersed in sustainable forest management, will understand why those views are seriously mistaken.

Sustainable paper

APP’s support for the Moratorium is simply the logical next step on a long journey towards our goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable producer of pulp and paper products worldwide. At the beginning of 2011, we see many things ahead of us which still need to be done, but we are very proud of our progress so far. Consider the following facts, which may surprise many Western stakeholders:

APP’s pulpwood suppliers manage 2.5 million hectares of gross land, which is just 1.3 per cent of the landmass of Indonesia. In total, the Republic of Indonesia currently allocates around 3 per cent of its total landmass for pulpwood plantation concessions. Over the last twenty years, a rigorous series of socio-environmental assessments have been developed to ensure that any land which is to be converted must not contain High Value Conservation Forest (HVCF) or critical peatlands. Some of our NGO critics would have you believe that these assessments are ‘not worth the paper they are written on’.

This makes me wonder whether they have taken the time to read through some of the weighty reports known as micro and macro delineation reports and other additional socio-environmental assessment reports, all written by eminent, independent experts in this field, and available for public scrutiny from the relevant authorities. They run to hundreds of pages, providing fine detail on the social and environmental value of any area of land under consideration. If the assessment concludes the land cannot be converted, it is preserved. Consequently, of the 2.5 million hectares allocated, APP’s suppliers have set aside 40 per cent of that total – around 1 million hectares – as HVCF and for community use.

Beyond compliance

Over the past decade, APP has worked with a variety of NGOs, local community groups and other stakeholders to further preserve and enhance those 1 million hectares - with the development of projects such as the Senepis Sumatran Tiger Sanctuary, the vast Giam Siak Kecil – Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve (recognized by UNESCO), the expansion of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, and the Kutai Orangutan Programme.
What all these projects demonstrate is that, as rigorous as Indonesian law in forest management has now become, APP has set itself the goal of going ‘beyond compliance’ with national standards.

Having being involved with the restructuring of our pulpwood supply systems since 2004, I take particular pride in the improvement that we made in Chain of Custody policies and practices which all APP mills must follow. These policies are designed to ensure that no illegal wood enters our supply chain. APP’s major pulp and paper mills have been certified by two key Chain of Custody certification schemes: the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute (LEI) and PEFC, the world’s largest forest certification system.

As anyone involved in developing and implementing Chain of Custody policies knows, it is a process of continuous improvement. In 2011, we can say the first major goal has been achieved: 100 per cent of APP's pulpwood supplies are legal under Indonesian law. Today we also know 71 per cent of APP's pulpwood supplies are voluntarily audited to meet Chain of Custody and Verification of Legal Origin of Fiber (LoV) standards set by international certification body SGS and the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute. By 2015 that figure will be 100 per cent. And 52 per cent of APP's pulpwood supplies currently meet mandatory Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) standards set by the Indonesian government with multi- stakeholder consultations.

Again, by 2015 we will reach the 100 per cent figure for SFM. Finally, in 2010, around 85 per cent of APP’s pulpwood consumption comes from our own Sustainable Wood Plantations (which are replanted every six or seven years), with the remainder coming from legally-sourced mixed wood residues. In five years, we are aiming for 100 per cent being sourced from our own plantations.

'100 per cent' certified forests

At APP, our view is that the concept of ‘100 per cent certified forest’, which we are committed to achieving, is much more meaningful than the ‘zero deforestation’ pledges which have been made by some global procurement forums recently. Adopting  the best global Chain of Custody policies, and implementing them in a painstaking way throughout the supply chain, is the best way of ensuring that our most valuable natural resources are protected, and that developing countries like Indonesia still have the ability to grow and prosper.

But is APP really serious about the Moratorium, and the critical need to slash emissions from deforestation? Two more pieces of evidence illustrate that we are deadly serious.

First, our commitment to reducing emissions: it was back in 2007 that APP partnered with international experts to assess the carbon footprint of our production facilities. This showed that APP’s weighted average carbon footprint for 2006 was on the low end of the comparable average for the North American paper industry. In 2011, APP is extending carbon footprint analysis to our pulpwood plantations, the first study of its kind in the world.

Covering analysis of all soil types for a full year, this independent research is expected to provide valuable learning to guide future sustainable forestry programs.  The analysis will measure greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 and CO4) and loss of organic materials in lowland forest and adjacent upland in pristine and degraded natural peat forest.  Equipment is currently being installed in and around concessions managed by APP pulpwood suppliers in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.

Making REDD work

Second, our commitment to the Moratorium and making REDD work: in 2010, APP moved ahead of the legislation yet again by announcing the Kampar Carbon Reserve. Working with the highly-respected Singapore-based Carbon Conservation, APP is planning to conserve more than 15,000 hectares of deep peat in the Kampar region. This will protect a hugely valuable carbon ‘sink’. Once the financial mechanisms are in place, Kampar will use the sale of REDD+ credits to inject millions of dollars into local job creation and community development programs in the indigenous communities surrounding the area. Carbon Conservation is in the process of data collection and compilation to build the carbon storage model, which will be independently verified and validated annually.

Some NGOs scoffed when we announced Kampar, on the basis that APP was making a virtue of land which could never have been used for pulpwood plantations anyway. Their criticism totally ignores the fact that high-value land is not conserved all by itself.

This is a critical point: conservation forest has to be actively managed, every bit as much as the pristine English countryside. There are far too many examples in Indonesia of vast areas, some of them managed by leading NGOs, being ‘preserved’, but actually being subject to encroachment, degradation and deadly forest fire. Working together, APP and Carbon Conservation will ensure this doesn’t happen in Kampar. In Indonesia, public private partnership is the answer for sustainable forest conservation.

Kampar demonstrates APP’s commitment to the financial model behind the Moratorium, and the vital concept of setting aside high value forest land. The two-year suspension on new concessions will give all of us – producers, suppliers, government, local communities and NGOs – the chance to review our progress to date and map out where we go from here.

APP is conducting its own mapping exercise at the moment. As we all know, sustainability is a journey, not a destination. It is a process of continuous improvement. In 2011, we will unveil our Sustainability Roadmap, or ‘2020 Vision’, as I called it on a recent visit to England. I extend an open invitation to stakeholders in the West to work with me on realizing a plan which will meet all of our social, economic and environmental needs at this critical point in the history of our planet.

Aida Greenbury is Managing Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations at Asia Pulp & Paper (APP)


Extpub | by Dr. Radut