Mark Rushton, Editor, Pulp & Paper International Magazine, RISI
Feb. 5, 2013
This comes to you straight after the event in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, where Asia Pulp & Paper has announced a complete end to the clearing of any natural forests from across its supply chain, from immediate effect. This includes all of the company's suppliers across the board.
Actually, APP has already ceased completely. "All machines were switched off" on Thursday of last week when I arrived in the country but I was under strict instructions not to release the news, so that information could go out simultaneously worldwide. Basically, along with the complete suspension of natural forest clearance, the company has also announced programs for the protection of all forests, including those on peatlands, High Carbon Stock assessments and adoption of international best practice for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. It has also committed to independent monitoring by NGOs - an important move. The announcement was made as part of APP's new Forest Conversation policy during the quarterly update to its ‘Vision 2020' Sustainability Roadmap.
And if importance is to be defined by people; then this was up there with any of the events that I have attended in my 15 years of reporting in the pulp and paper industry. The speakers included Teguh Wijaya, chairman of the APP Group, and a man not often seen in the glare of the world's press (who were there in droves) and Indonesia's ministers of Forestry and ministers of Trade. Chairman Wijaya gave the welcome speech to an audience that included most of the big NGO names, including most notably Greenpeace senior campaigners who have given a cautious, but very warm welcome to the announcement, and indicating clearly that APP has made great strides. This is a serious indication that something very significant has changed.
Make the world a botanical garden
In his speech, APP chairman Wijaya mentioned that climate change is one of the most important reasons why this move has been made, and quoted recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in the US and closer to home recently, in Jakarta, when the streets of the city were completely awash with floodwater, unusual even in this part of the world. Wijaya said: "Climate change is a fact and we need to take action now in protecting the forests we already have and by planting more trees - we currently plant more than a million a day. At APP we have a saying that if you ‘use more paper, we plant more trees', let's make the world a botanical garden."
I was given a sneak preview of what was to come when I arrived here last week to take part in the proceedings by moderating a panel of APP, Sinar Mas and other participating organizations and agencies who have been assisting APP to get to this extremely important milestone. On the panel was Scott Poynton, executive director of The Forest Trust (TFT), which is rapidly becoming a leading partner of big brands as they try to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. Joining Poynton were leading forestry consultants in the shape of Loy Jones, managing director of Asia Pacific Certification Systems, a world renowned forester with huge expertise in FSC accreditation and Neville Kemp, an ecologist and forester for PT Ekologika a company expert in High Conservation Value Assessments which have been crucial in getting to where the company is today. The basic conclusion from the panel, and indeed from a very supportive packed house, was that it is not just APP that needs a big slap on the back, but all the contributing agencies and organizations, including the NGOs, have really made this work as a group effort.
Indonesia's Vice Minister of Trade, Bayu Krisnamurti, finished his speech with a humorous but perhaps thinly veiled and serious request: "We expect all Indonesian forest companies to be operating in the same fine way that APP is within the next three months."
Who would have thought that APP would ever be held up as a good example of how to run a forest products company? Surely this can only be good news for the global pulp and paper industry, the people of Indonesia, and the planet as a whole.
Read more about my full visit to Indonesia including mill and forest reports in coming issues of PPI and on RISI.com.