Recognising a shared responsibility in forest conservation

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) sustainability chief Aida Greenbury explains why she is encouraged by the emerging rhetoric surrounding global forestry initiatives, and outlines some of the key challenges still facing the industry.

Recognising a shared responsibility in forest conservation

The tide is turning. The value of protecting forests has been recognised on the global stage, most notably at the recent COP21 climate negotiations, where halting deforestation was regarded as integral to commitments to cap global warming, a commitment reflected in the formal inclusion of REDD+ in the final agreement.

Business as usual is no longer an option: economic development which relies on the depletion of natural resources is regarded as outdated. Instead, countries looking to improve their long-term prospects are increasingly adopting the view that sustainable management of forests are an essential element to build lasting environmental and economic prosperity.

However, the hard work really starts when the talking stops. How can decades of forest clearance and ingrained business models be redefined to support ambitious new commitments on the environment?

Landscape approach

Firstly, this is not a change which can be implemented either piecemeal or in isolation. We are all working within landscapes where what happens in one area directly affects other parts of the landscape, irrespective of where concession boundaries are defined. Collaboration is therefore essential for successful conservation. At a local level, forest protection and restoration can only be realised with actors across government, business, civil society and local communities all working together.

Industry engagement with local communities must be the bedrock of the landscape approach. These two groups have perhaps the largest stake in ensuring the sustainability of forest landscapes and must coordinate to create a win-win situation. In essence, the fate of big business and local communities are inextricably linked – both rely on preserving the landscape to ensure it continues to generate economic value.

Working with local communities, we have been setting the building blocks for a business model that can be the basis for securing stronger local economies, supporting better livelihoods for future generations and protecting forests at the same time. In the three years since we launched our Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), as known as our Zero Deforestation Policy, we have implemented a number of initiatives in collaboration with local communities that help us to secure the long-term future of the landscape. An integrated agroforestry and farming programme we rolled out this year is one example of cooperation, which is designed to provide alternative livelihoods for local people and remove the need for unsustainable land clearance.

The Belantara Foundation

The landscape approach is also central to the Belantara Foundation ( Our recent FCP anniversary marked the official opening of the initiative, a platform we established as an innovative means of channelling public and private financing to landscape-wide conservation activities, from Indonesia to Indonesia. The design and mission of the Foundation builds on our experience of working with government, non-government, and local community stakeholders on holistic conservation and restoration projects in Indonesia – from long term strategic planning to on-the-ground implementation.

Fundamentally, it is designed to solve the challenge of how to effectively direct the billions of dollars that have been pledged on forest protection and restoration globally. To date, only a fraction of this money has been spent, making too little difference in countries like Indonesia, and our ambition is that Belantara can co-fund, provide a direct channel and mechanism to protect and support Indonesian forests.

Ultimately, forest conservation and restoration is not just the responsibility of local communities, the producers or even producing countries. Forests are a global public good and as such it is everyone’s responsibility to contribute to these efforts. We hope that over time, Belantara can build up a global partner base whilst also establishing a model of best practice based on harnessing the power of collective action through joined up, integrated and participatory planning, which can be utilised in tropical forests around the world.

As a global forestry community, what is perhaps most encouraging is the number of organisations, at all levels of the supply chain, who are adopting similar approaches. If the political will that was so apparent during the Paris conference can be translated into implementation, there is reason for optimism.

For our part, we are ready to learn from our experience, collaborate with others across our landscapes, in our country, and beyond, to try to protect one of the world’s most valuable resources.

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