WWF says it is cautiously welcoming a first attempt at a Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP) by Indonesian pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL), released Tuesday. WWF notes that a commitment to support forest conservation areas equal in size to its plantations sets a new standard for the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia, but is concerned about certain loopholes in the policy, which Greenpeace says is ‘essentially a license to continue forest clearance.’
In a statement, Dr. Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia, optimistically stated: “Given WWF’s longstanding calls for an end to the environmental abuses associated with the pulp and paper industry, APRIL’s Sustainable Forest Management Policy would seem to be demonstrating willingness on the part of the company to transforming its operations. If APRIL truly fulfills the entire commitment in the policy, it will lead to a positive contribution to Indonesia’s forests, biodiversity, emission reductions and people.”
Whereas Greenpeace, never known to mince words, expressed its thoughts through Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Campaigner Zulfahmi Fahmi: "If APRIL were serious about cutting forest destruction from their supply chains then it would look to more progressive players in the forestry sector that have put an immediate moratorium on all forest clearance and peatland development. Greenpeace will continue to expose APRIL's desperate measures to appease a growing demand for sustainable forestry products."
Under the new policy — which came less than two weeks after APRIL was threatened with expulsion from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), unless it could demonstrate that it has ended its role in deforestation — APRIL has committed to a moratorium on clearing in concessions where there has not been independent assessment of conservation values. The company and its long-term supply partners will complete plantation establishment by the end of 2014 and support a pilot study to help develop industry-accepted methods for evaluating and protecting High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests and peatland areas.
But the policy also allows for APRIL — the single largest deforester for pulp in Indonesia, according to Greenpeace — to use wood from tropical until the end of 2019. WWF is urging APRIL to become a 100 percent plantation-fiber company by the end of 2014, warning that without robust processes and independent monitoring, high-value and high-carbon forest material could continue to leak through this loophole into the pulp mills.
Likewise, while the carbon stock assessment study is welcome, WWF contends it should involve all relevant stakeholders and APRIL should apply the precautionary principle and protect all likely HCS areas until an industry standard is final.
WWF says it also appreciates the commitment of APRIL to establish a stakeholder advisory committee — and welcomes APRIL’s invitation to be a part of it — and hopes the committee becomes a credible and independent group to continuously engage the company in the effective implementation and strengthening of its policy. In the meantime, the NGO is calling on all of APRIL’s stakeholders to help monitor the pulp supplier’s compliance with its new policy.
"WWF calls pulp and paper buyers to observe closely independent monitoring and civil society assessments as proof of compliance by APRIL to these commitments," said Aditya Bayunanda, WWF Indonesia Forest Market Transformation Leader. “We urge Indonesian and global civil society to conduct intensive monitoring and reporting of all of APRIL’s commitments.”
WWF is also joining with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and others to urge that APRIL’s owner, the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group, implement similar policies over other business entities involved in pulp and paper and other industries associated with high levels of deforestation.
Last year, APRIL counterpart Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) committed to a zero-deforestation policy after losing nearly 100 of its customers. In June, the company released the latest update in its "Vision 2020" sustainability roadmap that provides further insight into its new Forest Conservation Policy (FCP). But the saga continues: As of September, WWF and other NGOs insisted that APP agree to a list of performance targets in order to improve its current status as one of the world’s most notorious deforesters and back up its commitment to become an environmentally and socially responsible company.