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Collaboration Imperative for Making Sustainability Commitments a Reality

Recent climate change talks in Bonn drew to a close last week without major fanfare. However, despite no landmark announcements — such as that coming out of Paris after COP21 — it was nonetheless a critical meeting, with a key aim of better defining ‘how’ to make the ambitions set out in Paris in 2015 a reality and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.

For those of us leading sustainability efforts for companies, the COP talks are a great opportunity to learn about what’s happening at a global level and reflect on how we, as just one actor, fit into the bigger picture.

For many, this journey begins in New York, where September’s Climate Week sits as an important precursor to COP negotiations in the environmental calendar. In 2014, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) joined a host of companies, governments and civil society actors in signing the New York Declaration on Forests. Since then, the momentum has grown — especially from the corporate perspective. At this year’s Climate Week, a number of companies, including Citigroup, Kellogg and VF Corporation, signed ambitious commitments aimed at tackling climate change and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Other companies should be inspired by these pledges. Action by businesses — including funding and commitments to renewable energy and sustainable sourcing — are critically important. But beyond our own ambition, if we are to succeed in reaching Paris Agreement commitments, collective action — linking the work of governments, private sector and civil society — is required. Companies cannot assume responsibility for protecting forests singlehandedly. At APP, we’ve seen this firsthand as bringing sustainability to the core of our operations has meant working with others to make sure that the sum of our efforts is greater than its parts.

This is important in two senses.

First, collective ambition is a powerful means of spurring companies to commit to greater individual action. Supply Change’s latest report, Tracking Corporate Commitments to Deforestation-Free Supply Chains 2017, found that participation in groups that work toward finding solutions to deforestation-free supply chains is a significant driver in pushing companies to make individual commitments. At least 95 percent of participants in groups such as the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) have adopted individual pledges. Talk about positive peer pressure in action.

APP’s zero-deforestation commitments were first launched in 2012 and 2013 through our Sustainability Roadmap 2020 and Forest Conservation Policy (FCP). As part of this process, we put in place frameworks to monitor and manage over 10 key impact areas of our business and wider supply chain. In the spirit of collective ambition, the New York Declaration on Forests was an important opportunity for us to join with other actors to commit to a timeline to reduce deforestation and promote forest restoration. Being part of a broader movement and knowing that other companies share our aspirations has certainly driven us to become more ambitious and committed.

Second, working together means collaboration in the landscape. From illegal logging to floods to fires, forests face many threats that simply do not respect concession boundaries. As a company, we can take measures to safeguard forests within our own concessions, but working more effectively across the whole landscape requires a broader partnership approach.

That’s why for the last two years APP and the Belantara Foundation have been working on multi-stakeholder approaches in partnership with governments, NGOs and others across a number of critical landscapes. The key here is leadership by local governments. APP works closely with both the South Sumatran and West Kalimantan governments to support the development and implementation of their sustainable growth plans, which are based on a collaborative approach between all stakeholders active in the landscape.

Corporate commitments are to be welcomed, and resources such as P4G, a platform to convene diverse stakeholders across businesses, policies and communities to drive sustainable economic growth, will make a vital contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change.

When it comes to deforestation, accelerating the implementation of jurisdictional programs has been identified as a priority area in addressing commodity-driven deforestation in the recently published Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020 by TFA 2020. These partnerships are what will take APP and other members beyond ambition and toward reality.

When it comes to APP’s own long-term sustainability planning, we must continue to fine-tune our approach to ratchet up progress year on year. This involves questions such as; how can we align our own ambitions and resources with other actors who share our values and aspirations? How do we build on the progress we have made in the last few years since our FCP was launched? How do we ensure that our own efforts contribute and support the efforts of national and sub-national governments in Indonesia, as well as the broader SDGs? And how can we ensure that our own plans help others within our supply chain, including our customers, achieve their own goals?

One thing is clear: Collective action and collaboration will be the foundation of our strategy.


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