SDGs In Action: How Asia Pulp & Paper is achieving Goal 15 – Life On Land

Welcome to edie's brand new editorial series which breaks down exactly how businesses are turning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into action. First up: paper manufacturer Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) reveals how it is driving out deforestation while improving the livelihoods of its workers in Indonesia.

SDGs In Action: How Asia Pulp & Paper is achieving Goal 15 – Life On Land

Through the lens of SDG 15

Defining the Goal…

Forests cover almost a third of the world’s land area and more than a billion people rely on them for their livelihoods. However, the World Resources Institute (WRI) reports that, globally, tree cover loss has accelerated by 51%, resulting in the loss of an area the size of New Zealand.

For the SDGs, Goal 15: Life on Land focuses on sustainable forests management; halting and reversing land degradation, combating desertification and the halting of biodiversity loss on an ongoing basis.

APP has become one of the world’s leading businesses with regards to halting deforestation. The firm’s Sustainability Roadmap Vision 2020 sets out its vision to reduce deforestation in Indonesia – one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, where APP is based. 

APP is at the heart of a challenge that branches out across a number of environmental issues. The company has therefore overlaid the SDGs as a framework to help illustrate the transformational change that the private sector can deliver.

APP’s alignment with Goal 15

In June 2012, APP published its Sustainability Roadmap Vision 2020, which placed sustainability at the centre of its operations. In 2013, the launch of a Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) strengthened the company’s commitment to zero-deforestation through the management of its pulpwood supply chain.

For APP, there are a number of relevant targets under Goal 15 that link to this newfound sustainability vision:

  • By 2020, the firm says it will be promoting the implementation of sustainable management for all types of forests, actively halting deforestation, restoring degraded forests and substantially increasing afforestation and reforestation globally
  • APP will take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of endangered species
  • It will mobilise and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems
  • It will also mobilise significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation purposes.

APP’s strategy is evolving, and the company is currebtly working to gather baseline data to support future reporting against KPIs that link directly to SDGs. That is not to say that the SDGs are driving APP’s sustainability strategy, but APP is keen to demonstrate its contributions to the SDGs and increase or change its focus where required.

APP also notes that the international recognition of the SDGs has created a “window and dialogue to communicate outwards from the company” to stakeholders and companies; to talk and act on more than just forestry. As the Indonesian Government is keen to contribute towards the Goals – notably through a ‘monitoring dashboard‘ – APP realised that mapping its own actions against a framework used by a key stakeholder made sense.

The results so far

The company is now entering its sixth year of exclusively sourcing fibre from responsibly managed plantations throughout its supply chain. As of 2018, 100% of APP’s plantation in Indonesia are certified under the Timber Legality Verification System and 91% are certified under Indonesia Forestry Certification Cooperation (IFCC), the national certification standard endorsed by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

The employment of satellite technology combined with targeting ground verification and patrols over the past year has enabled APP to successfully monitor and reduce incidents of third-party deforestation across its suppliers’ areas.

APP & Goal 15: Example project

One of the key pillars of APP’s FCP is the Integrated Forestry & Farming System (IFFS) – a community empowerment programme designed to improve the livelihood of local communities in Indonesia by increasing awareness and use of modern and sustainable agroforestry practices, with the ultimate aim to reduce the communities’ dependence on forest land.

Launched at the COP21 climate conference, the IFFS programme aims to enrol 500 villages across five Indonesian provinces where APP and its suppliers operate – Riau, South Sumatra, Jambi, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan. Up to $10m is being invested over the five-year period, as APP aims to improve the economy and food security of village households and strengthen the relationships between the company and the village communities that live within.

As a first step, community members are provided with the necessary equipment, support and microfinance of revolving funds in order to help local businesses. Aspects such as horticultural training are provided to help improve the communities and their ability to manage and maintain vegetable and fruit crops using the innovative agroforestry system.

As of the end of 2018, 284 villages have benefitted from new training mechanisms issued by APP. As a result, more than 16,800 households have gained access to agroforestry techniques that preserve the local environment, whereas before, burning land was a common practice. The IFFS has contributed to improving the income of its participants – helping to address aspects of the SDG Zero Poverty Goal.

How APP is working towards the other Goals

Goal 1: Zero Poverty. Under this goal, there are two targets which are of particular relevance to the APP IFFS programme:

  • By 2030, reduce at least half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
  • By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

The main ambitions of the project are to increase the earnings and welfare for on-the-ground farmers while also improving and enhancing food crops, stock and security. Through improving welfare, APP hopes to reduce the occurrence of communities opening forest land for agriculture. APP also believes that the project will help to resolve conflicts – both internal and external – and increase village engagement with APP’s ongoing ambitions relating to Goal 15.

Sharing the learnings

According to APP’s European director of sustainability and stakeholder engagement Liz Wilks (pictured left), the SDGs – particularly those with 2020 sub-targets, can pose a significant business challenge. 

Speaking exclusively to edie about APP’s alignment with the Goals, Wilks said: “In reality, across many regions of the world, these targets may not be met.

“We believe that the key to unlocking the type of exponential progress required to meet the targets by 2030 is the establishment ‘landscape level partnerships’, where numerous companies, government agencies, local communities and other stakeholders work together towards shared goals of forest conversation and reforestation.

“However, the SDGs offer us an additional lens to show how we’re going over and above on some actions. When you look at the SDG overlays on companies, for example, not many put poverty at the beginning, and in dialogue with the supply chain, this is not really a point that is brought up. It allows us to put people in the heart of what’s happening.”

APP’s future sustainable development plans

Wilks noted that APP is still committed to reaching out to at least 500 villages under the IFFS programme. As well as bringing more villages into the scheme, Wilks also wants IFFS to grow the income of existing villages and develop a business model that can be replicated across the country. To get to that point, APP will continue to be transparent when meeting with stakeholders – it presents data to its stakholders at advisory forums twice a year – and is looking at new metrics like Natural Capital to see if that can build the business case for sustainable development even further.

Recently, the Indonesian Network of the United Nations Global Compact (UN Global Compact) announced a partnership between APP and Martha Tilaar Group (MTG), a group of beauty companies which focus on the biodiversity of Indonesian nature and culture and to preserve them by creating a sustainable business from the beginning. That partnership aims to train 1,000 women from forest communities to help preserve herbal plants and to become economically self-sufficient.

“It’s not just a five-year programme, it’s a kickstart for a sustainable economy,” Wilks added. “The beginning has been on our own production areas, but we’re looking how to take this to market and partner with companies that want to invest or source raw materials in the region.

“The vision would be to have a business model with other partners that enables us to replicate the business model for Indonesia. We want to contribute to that.”

Matt Mace

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