Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL), one of the world’s largest producers of pulp and paper, has today announced an end to deforestation as part of a new Sustainable Forest Management Plan.
Deforestation for pulp and paper, and palm oil, is a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia. If properly implemented, APRIL’s pledge will prove to be another major step by business towards protecting Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands.
APRIL’s parent company, the Royal Golden Eagle group, has also announced that new sustainability policies will be implemented by all other pulp companies in the group, including an end to deforestation. Greenpeace is suspending its campaign to give APRIL and other RGE group companies time to put these new policies into practice.
“APRIL’s policy is huge news for the entire industry; along with APP’s zero deforestation commitment in 2013, now over 80% of the pulp sector in Indonesia is committed to stopping the destruction of the rainforests,” said Amy Moas, PhD, US Senior Forest Campaigner. “Protecting the forests and peatlands is the way forward for Indonesia and the world, and will bring significant benefits for the climate,” she added.
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APRIL has agreed to a number of new conservation measures, including using the High Carbon Stock Approach to identify and protect forest areas remaining in their concessions. The company has also agreed to protect forested peatlands and has established a Peat Expert Working Group to help it develop international best practice for managing peatlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Indonesia’s peatlands store an estimated 60 billion metric tons of carbon. When peatlands are drained for plantations this carbon is released, and the landscape becomes susceptible to smoldering fires that blanket the region in an annual haze.
APRIL has also agreed to work collaboratively and transparently to resolve its outstanding social conflicts and to support development opportunities for local communities that do not involve deforestation.
“APRIL's announcement that they are immediately halting deforestation is welcomed as is RGE’s broader Sustainability Framework,” Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy, told Sustainable Brands. “Of course, translation of this policy into practices on the ground is where the rubber hits the road and we’ll know that real change is happening."
In January 2014, NGOs including WWF and Greenpeace cautiously welcomed APRIL’s first attempt at a Sustainable Forest Management Policy. WWF noted that its commitment to support forest conservation areas equal in size to its plantations set a new standard for the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia, but was concerned about certain loopholes in the policy, which Greenpeace said was ‘essentially a license to continue forest clearance.’
“Just as significant as APRIL’s revised policy is RGE’s group-wide Sustainability Framework and what happens next with that," Rycroft said. "There’s a clear expectation from the global marketplace that all business units and affiliates of RGE, including viscose producer Sateri and Toba Pulp Lestari — the highly contentious dissolving pulp producer in northern Sumatra — will adopt equivalent or better policy commitments to ensure they no longer source from endangered forests or deforestation as well as start to restore some of the devastating ecological and social legacy left behind by logging and sourcing over the years.”
APRIL’s announcement follows similar decisions by other major players in the pulp and palm oil sectors to protect Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. In 2013, Asia Pulp & Paper led the way with its Forest Conservation Policy and is now working with Rainforest Alliance and other NGOs on a holistic approach to implementation. And in September, some of the biggest palm oil producers in Indonesia, including APRIL’s sister companies Asian Agri and Apical, agreed to end deforestation. There is also growing support from the business community in Indonesia for a development model based on forest protection.
“President Jokowi promised to stop plantation companies damaging the environment or harming communities,” said Bustar Maitar, Global Head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia Forest Campaign. “Yet even though Indonesia’s biggest pulpwood and palm oil companies are moving away from deforestation, the destruction on the ground continues. The government must now act to reform the forest sector so it works for people and the environment.”