Asia Pulp & Paper advances forest conservation initiatives

One of the biggest pulp, paper and packaging firms has taken strides to cease all natural forest clearances within its suppliers and operations and promote best practice working standards for peatland management in Indonesia.

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has today (14 March) released a report outlining the progress it has made in its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which has seen the business evolve from a villain in the eyes of green groups to a leading voice for the pulp and paper industry on deforestation.

FCP is now into its fourth year of a plan to transform how APP interacts with the surrounding environment. The report outlines that mapping and surveillance of Indonesian forests and peatlands was mostly completed in 2016, with new sourcing and management practices set to be introduced in the coming months.

APP’s managing director and edie blogger Aida Greenbury said: “APP’s transformation process is now integrated into the fabric of the company. The report that we publish today and the verification that has been undertaken to review our FCP in the past 12 months confirms that as a business we remain on the right path. 

“This is a journey which has no end, because no one is perfect and we will constantly seek to improve and protect the landscapes on which we depend, while improving the livelihood of the communities who depend on us.”

APP is now entering its fifth year of exclusively sourcing fibre generated from “responsibly managed plantations” throughout its supply chain. The report, which breaks down APP’s progress into four categories covering forest protection, peatland management, social engagement and sourcing, notes that all existing and potential suppliers have been evaluated against a Supplier Evaluation & Risk Assessment (SERA) to ensure compliance to the FCP.

Launched in 2013, the FCP includes a bold pledge to cease all natural forest clearance. APP has since completed the Integrated Sustainable Forest Management Plan (ISFMP) to consolidate data and create recommendations relating to natural forest protection.

In 2016, spatial plans were completed by an Independent Observer (IO) for all of APP’s 38 pulpwood suppliers, which will be developed into manuals for guidance and implementation on issues regarding conservation value, carbon stock and staff surveillance. So far 24 ISFMP manuals have been finalised and the remaining 14 will completed this Spring.

Peatland protection

The degradation of peatlands and forests in South Asia, commonly through fires, is a major issue for companies attempting to strengthen supply chains. A recent study estimated that smoke from forest fires, which are fuelled by plantation companies clearing forests and draining peatlands, caused more than 100,000 premature deaths across South East Asia in 2015.

APP is working with the Government of Indonesia to reduce emissions and stimulate low-carbon development by reducing the number of fires and promoting best practice for management in peatlands, which act as natural carbon sinks.

The company’s Peatland Best Management Practices (PBMP) has seen the roll out of the first set of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) mapping, which covered 4.5m hectares of peatland across Sumatra and Kalimantan in 2015. The result of this mapping led to the retirement of 7,000 hectares of production forests for conservation purposes and the construction of more than 5,000 perimeter canal blockings to raise water levels.

For 2017, mapping coverage will be extended to Musi Banyuasin, Ogan Komering Ilir and West Kalimantan to increase peatland resolution and improve water management analysis and recommendations.

Notably, the report reveals the APP successfully prevented “uncontrollable fires” across all pulpwood supplies due to what it claims is “improved fire prevention strategies”.

Land grabs

According to the report, land conflicts continue to act as a major challenge to the agriculture and forestry sectors in Indonesia. Under FCP, APP has enlisted the help of stakeholders, government agencies and civil society to combat the issue.

As of December 2016, more than 40% of mapped conflicts have been resolved and APP is also working with The Forest Trust (TFT) to conduct due diligence and provide further verification on the status of land conflict resolutions. Although, Indonesia being made-up of 17,000 islands makes this task complicated.

APP has also established an Integrated Forest and Farming system in the past year. A target of implementing smarter working practices across 80 villages by the end of 2016 fell short by 14 villages. According to the report, convincing villagers to adopt land preparation methods without using fire still remains a significant barrier to accelerated uptake.

Overall the system intends to benefit around 500 villages located around APP’s suppliers by 2020. APP has announced that it will invest around $2m annually in this programme to build capacity and upgrade farming equipment and materials.

For 2017, APP has confirmed that it will review natural capital assessments as a means to align environmental management with economic development in the business. APP is also working on a community-led pilot to increase the availability of bio-fuels in Indonesia.

For more information on APP’s transformative approach to deforestation, which hasn’t been without its challenges, watch edie’s mini-documentary showcasing a tour of APP operations in Indonesia.

Matt Mace

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