APP: We defined zero deforestation

Asia Pulp and Paper is positioning itself as the gold standard for sustainable paper manufacturing, implying its plan is superior to FSC certification.

APP sustainability managing director Aida Greenbury says forestry certifications printers and paper merchants highly regard when choosing paper suppliers are merely ‘important stepping stones’.

“Nothing is good enough, otherwise zero deforestation wouldn’t have been born,” she says in a Twitter discussion on ‘making zero deforestation a reality’ run by news website Business Green.

[Related: Read the whole APP saga]

Greenbury claims the giant paper manufacturer defined the term, shooting down attempts by other participants from major companies and NGOs.

“There’s a single definition, Greenpeace, The Forest Trust and APP defined it when we announced our Forest Conservation Policy,” she says.

“We can always fine tune and improve the implementation, but the definition is set in stone.”

Arguably the world’s biggest paper manufacturer, APP announced the FCP in February 2013 after a decade-long campaign by Greenpeace against its destruction of Indonesian rainforest caused a boycott by major customers.

An independent report released in January this year found the company was making ‘modrate progress’ towards its environmental goals but still had a long way to go.

The company lost its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and is on a long process to get it back.

In the discussion, Greenbury sums up zero deforestation as ‘no conversion of natural forest in supply chain, implement FPIC and responsible peatland management whenever applicable’.

[Feature: Can you trust APP?]

Greenbury says the biggest hurdles to making zero deforestation a reality are ‘weak governance, lack of supply chain transparency, and bringing others on board’ and that governments need to ‘empower local communities to participate in conservation’.

However, she says the public sector ‘rarely leads’ on the issue and instead ‘plays catch up’ with business, supported by NGOs.

Greenbury says governments can set credible deforestation targets, but ‘the problem is that most governments go for the lowest common denominator’.

“This could be prevented if business persuades governments that forests left standing will be worth more,” she says.

“We saw deforestation as just the tip of the iceberg. If we didn't address it, we would cease as a business.”

Greenbury says financial institutions have ‘very important’ roles to play in pressuring forestry companies to be sustainable, such as when Spanish bank Santander stopped lending to April due to deforestation allegations.

“Financial institutions must ensure they don't provide any funding for activities linked to deforestation. It's not easy because financial institution's audit mechanisms have not been very strong,” she says.

The other panel participants were Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, Unilever global advocacy manager Hannah Hislop, CDP’s head of forests programme Katie McCoy, Marks & Spencer sustainable development manager Fiona Wheatley, and The Forest Trust founder Scott Poynton.

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