APP has made a dramatic commitment to zero deforestation

It’s going to cost the forestry giant tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, but now – after a decades-long campaign – it seems Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is finally ready, willing and able to withdraw the bulldozers from native forests.

Announced in February, APP’s new zero deforestation policy institutes a moratorium on pulping forests with high conservation and high carbon value and will cover both its own concessions and that of its 29 independent suppliers.

What’s different this time, say both critics and supporters, is the commitment to cover the company’s entire supply base. The deal also has a significant monitoring mechanism, as well as the public endorsement of Teguh Ganda Wijaya, chairman of APP.

“All of their commitments in the past have been about doing something in the future,” says Scott Poynton, founder and director of forest conservation NGO TFT. “This commitment was announced on February 5, and the bulldozers were already off on January 31.”

Compliance monitoring

TFT will be responsible for monitoring APP’s compliance with the policy. It also helped broker the deal, spending 2011 and 2012 in protracted negotiations. They came to a breakthrough in October 2012 when Poynton says he warned the company of a fast-closing window, beyond which continued forest destruction would forever tarnish the APP brand.

APP says it now has sufficient plantation resources to meet the long-term forecast demand for its pulp. By intensifying production, APP can conceivably satisfy all its pulp needs, while at the same time engaging in a credible process to deliver free prior informed consent in its dealings with indigenous and local communities – an additional commitment made under the new policy.

For now, Greenpeace says it is suspending its campaign against APP, though it will independently monitor the agreement in order to assure the company’s full compliance.

“We commend APP for making this commitment to end deforestation, but it’s what happens in the forest that counts and we will be monitoring progress closely,” says Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace’s forest campaign in Indonesia. “If APP fully implements its new policies it will mark a dramatic change in direction, after years of deforestation in Indonesia.”

WWF also welcomes the announcement but has concerns that APP has inserted a “loophole” in the commitment, allowing APP mills to accept trees felled before January 31. For now it is urging paper buyers to adopt a “wait for proof stance”.

Poynton says he understands everyone’s cynicism given APP’s history of noncompliance and outright deception, but believes this time is different. For one thing, the high conservation value forest (HCVF) and high carbon stock (HCS) standards are now well understood. Sister company Golden Agri’s successful rehabilitation using HCVF and HCS has also engendered faith in the process.

“The difference is I’ve got about 50 people in Indonesia and another 30 people running around APP’s forests, factories, suppliers talking to communities, talking to NGOs, really, really deeply involved in understanding how their business operates,” Poynton says. “There are a lot of people waiting for the APP thing to fall down but I don’t think it’s going to.”

Asia Pulp & Paper  deforestation  Environment  Eric Marx 

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