Will Asia Pulp and Paper’s policy protect Indonesian forests?

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By Dan Howells, Canopy Campaign Director

Anniversaries are a funny thing. Especially the early ones. They mark the passing of time and measure where we are – whether in life, at work, amongst friends, or with loved ones.

February 5, 2014 was an anniversary. The first one. One year ago, Indonesia’s largest logging company, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) announced a new Forest Conservation Policy that committed the company to several critical initiatives: zero-deforestation of “natural forests” starting immediately; working to mitigate climate change as related to forestry; respect of local community rights; third party certification of its practices; and transparency.

Canopy Executive Director, Nicole Rycroft, and I attended a briefing in Jakarta Indonesia from APP on February 5 to get an update from the company and participate in a dialogue that also included Environmental NGOs like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and WWF on APP’s progress to date. It was a good presentation and a lively exchange from the ENGOs on their impressions on where progress is and isn’t being made.

The word “impressions” is important because as I said, anniversaries are a funny thing. It’s only the first for APP’s policy. It was widely noted that APP is very much in the early stages of measuring the effects of their work thus far and participants remarked on areas where more work needs to be done. While APP has taken some promising initial steps to put systems in place, there are several studies under way, but not yet completed, that will help paint a clearer picture of what (or if) progress is being made on the ground. Where it counts.

Studies on two critical areas of APP’s commitment are yet to be seen by anyone outside of the company’s inner circle. Assessments of High Conversation Value Forests and High Carbon Stock Values (or dense peat-lands that store millions of tons of carbon) of the company’s tenures should lead to the conservation of these forest lands. Restoration of degraded forests, the protection of peat-lands and community rights also need to be addressed. Canopy is fully supportive of robust scientific benchmarking and studies that help to clarify both the current state of APP’s forest lands and the actions that must follow for the company to fulfill its commitments under its Forest Conservation Policy. We hope these studies will inform appropriate and timely action and by the second anniversary, APP will be in a position to outline substantive progress that has been made in protecting high conservation value forests and peatlands and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Indonesia’s globally important ancient forests. Read more about the social and environmental indicators that will measure APP’s progress.

Canopy works with over 700 companies on procurement policies for forestry products many of which helped bring us to this point in what could be a truly historical initiative, not just for Indonesia but for the world given the important role forests play in many issues including climate change. Marking this 1-year anniversary we encourage our partner companies to take note of what can be accomplished when customers starting asking questions and leveraging their purchasing power to change ‘business as usual’ practices.

Companies positioned to engage Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), can urge them to expand their Forest Conservation Policy (which is being audited by Rainforest Alliance) to include and address the Milestones proposed by the member groups of the Environmental Paper Network that cover critical aspects of sustainable and responsible operations.

The work of protecting the world’s forests, the communities that live in them and the species that depend on them is not an overnight process…but it’s rewarding. We look forward to “many more,” as the song goes — anniversaries where we continue to work with customers and suppliers on the initiatives that will help protect this planet.

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