APP pledges to restore rainforest

Indonesian paper manufacturing giant Asia Pulp and Paper has pledged to restore and conserve one million hectares of Indonesian rainforest, removing the biggest criticism of its attempts to clean up its image.

The latest plan includes nine priority areas across the country and will involve activities including protecting threatened wildlife, creating animal habitats and sanctuaries, and protecting and expanding natural forests.

Last year APP and Greenpeace ended their decade long conflict, which ultimately resulted in APP stock being removed from Australia, with APP announcing a swag of measures to appease the environmental lobby, including a blanket ban on pulp from old growth forests.

The area in question is about three times the size of the ACT and roughly equal to the area of plantation from which the company sourced pulp fibre in 2013. APP has a total concession area of 2.6 million hectares and is estimated to have cleared about two million hectares of rainforest in the past 30 years.

APP will also develop, with other stakeholders, an independently administered trust fund to manage and finance the conservation measures to ‘ensure their sustainability and viability into the future’. It will receive start up funding from APP and will raise additional funds on an ongoing basis.

[Related: Read the whole APP saga]

APP managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury says it has become clear that the key to success of any efforts to halt deforestation in Indonesia is a landscape level approach to forest restoration and conservation.

“Land cannot be conserved or restored in isolation, the sustainability of the entire landscape must be taken into account and many stakeholders must be involved,” she says.

“We hope that by working with Indonesian and international stakeholders, as well as organisations such as WWF, The Forest Trust and Ekologika, our efforts will be much more effective.

“We believe that by assessing entire landscapes and creating clear tailor made objectives and strategies, the maximum possible level of conservation will be achieved, not just for natural forest in our concessions, but for areas around them as well.”

The plan was developed in consultation with NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF, which was earlier critical of APP’s Forest Conservation Policy, launched last February.

World Wildlife Fund Australia spokesman Tim Cronin told ProPrint in February that the FCP ‘looks good on paper, but there’s a still a lot of work to do to prove that it can and will be done’.

“APP’s commitment needs to go further than to protect what little forest is remaining. It needs to include restoration of key forest and peatland ecosystems impacted by the company’s past operations,” he said.

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The conservation organisation says with this commitment to restore Indonesian rainforests, APP has ‘substantially strengthened’ the FCP.

“WWF and other NGOs have identified the lack of attention to APP’s deforestation legacy as a major shortcoming in the original Forest Conservation Policy,” Rod Taylor, director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme, says.

“We are encouraged by this announcement and look forward to working with APP and other stakeholders to figure out the details of where and how forests will be restored and conserved under this initiative.”

WWF Indonesia Forest Commodities Market Transformation program leader Aditya Bayunanda says: “Abandoning deforestation after the damage is done cannot be all that it takes to be considered a responsible player.”

“APP’s commitment to undertake conservation and restoration at landscape scale is encouraging, though decisions on how this is done will need to involve local authorities, communities and other stakeholders,” he says.

“We also strongly believe that areas counting towards the one million hectare target should be additional to those that pulp concession holders are legally obliged to protect under Indonesian regulations.”

APP’s Australian affiliates have responded positively to the announcement, with Solaris Paper chief executive Steve Nicholson saying it is evidence of APP’s dedication to becoming a leader in sustainability.

“Australians are very environmentally conscious and I hope the announcement will encourage local suppliers and consumers that our products are truly sustainable,” he says.

“I applaud our affiliate’s latest announcement, which will set a new standard in protection of the world’s valuable rainforests and ensure the future protection of endangered species.”

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