Asia Pulp and Paper Advances Zero Deforestation Policy

Preventing the destruction of natural forests is a top priority for Asia Pulp and Paper. The company has engaged NGOs, government officials, and local communities to assist in their efforts to build comprehensive programs and zero deforestation policies. In 2014, APP worked with the Rainforest Alliance to perform an assessment on their programs to measure the progress that has been made since original targets for sustainable operations were set. The assessment supplied a “moderate” rating on the company's progress and provided feedback on key issues that the Alliance thought needed to be addressed. Many in the media took this as an opportunity to provide additional insights, comments, and criticisms.

While they’ve been disparaged in the past by some for not moving quickly enough to achieve ambitious goals, APP is moving forward, and with an all-out effort: they have more programs in this area than any company I’ve talked to or read about. The people at APP really are fighting the good fight for sustainability.

Recently, I traveled to Indonesia as their guest to see first-hand for myself. APP has an operation that is massive in both scope and scale, but despite its sprawling size, it is well run, with a tightly managed supply chain from raw materials to finished products. While in Jakarta and Sumatra, I saw a very large company trying to do what is right for their business and for all stakeholders, even though the complexities are challenging.

There are many observations to report. I saw healthy working conditions and capacity building in communities in the form of housing, healthcare, and habitat preservation. Care and concern for worker health and safety were in place everywhere. The commitment to preserving wild life habitat was clear in their tiger reserve and in elephants in botanical gardens. Speaking with numerous APP employees, I heard their deep commitment to zero deforestation policies. The focus on research and development for sustainable wood species and forestry management practices was exemplified in the company's laboratory, propagation fields, nursery, and managed forests.

Discussions with APP’s R&D team included topics such as how new species are tested and propagated, and how managed forests are created, maintained, and harvested. It is clear that the journey to preventing deforestation starts with understanding where raw materials are sourced, along with being transparent in documenting the supply chain. This task is enormous for any company that grows large tracts of managed forests on land concessions and has implemented zero deforestation policies, but it is one that APP has committed to.

When APP was criticized by NGOs in 2013 for not having strong zero deforestation policies in place, the company didn't ignore the feedback. Instead, it invited many of the critical NGOs to join them in developing programs that could enhance the way they source and to become more transparent. NGOs such as Greenpeace, the Rainforest Alliance, and the World Wildlife Fund continue to be part of ongoing consultations and assessments to monitor and improve APP's forestry efforts. That’s quite a support team to verify progress.

APP’s vision is to be the most respected pulp and paper company in the world: it is their highest priority. They want to build trust and show commitment to better policies and programs than in the past. I believe they are leading the pulp and paper industry into a sustainable future.

With nine production facilities in Indonesia, APP understands it is critical that the company uses sustainable practices and implements forestry management programs. The company's forest conservation program includes six key commitments: no deforestation, peat land preservation, social conflict resolution, third-party fiber sourcing, high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS) assessments, and above all, transparency.

While touring APP operations, I was brought to the processing plant where freshly cut trees arrived on large trucks that raced down dirt roads before entering the plant.

Upon entry to the plant in Jambi Province in Sumatra, we came upon a small shack on a dusty road. In this shack, the APP workers document the chain of custody for all forest materials that enter the Asia Pulp and Paper processing plant.

This shack is outfitted with the latest technology—computers, printers, and scanners, along with internet access—in order to connect the facility to internal IT equipment. In such a small, rudimentary space, several APP employees manage the paperwork they receive from logging trucks that roar up and down the roads all day, dropping off raw materials. As someone who builds compliance and sustainability programs for corporations, my first thought was “Wow! If they can collect raw material data in a remote place like this and in this extreme heat, other companies ought to be able to do the same?”

Transparency doesn’t start at the top levels of the company and stop in the middle. True transparency extends to all levels of the organization. This holds true at Asia Pulp and Paper.

The team took me onward, past the checkpoint. We went to the plant to view the areas where shredding, chipping, and processing turn trees into pulp and paper.

As we entered the facility, the first thing I noticed was the massive scale of the operation. The next thing I noticed was how clean the facility appeared and that all workers were wearing appropriate safety and protection gear. The workers seemed happy and were proud to show me what their company does. After putting on our own safety gear, we were allowed to tour the whole facility and were taken into the control room to learn more about how the pulp is processed and turned into paper. Throughout the tour, the team answered all of my questions and provided access to any environment I asked to see.

Although the team at the company has more work to do to advance their vision, mission, goals, and programs, my personal experience was one of transparency and of a sustainable leader in the making, one that has made considerable progress but aims for much more. As APP continues to work with NGOs, local and government officials, and community leaders, I believe we can expect even greater things to come from their efforts.

Photos: Kelly Eisenhardt