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Talking deforestation and conservation with APP, Greenpeace, RAN, WWF, TFT, and Ekologika

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
February 05, 2014




APP One Year Forest Conservation Policy Anniversary
APP One Year Forest Conservation Policy Anniversary event

Today I moderated a panel at Asia Pulp & Paper's one year anniversary event of its forest conservation policy. Briefly, the policy commits APP — which until very recently was widely considered one of the most destructive forestry companies operating in Indonesia — to protect forests, peatlands, and the rights of local communities.

As readers of Mongabay are likely aware, I have covered APP very extensively in the past. This coverage has highlighted a number of issues, including social conflict, destruction of forests and peatlands, greenhouse gas emissions, alleged illegal logging, and greenwashing. Given the critical nature of my reporting, I was surprised when APP last month invited me to moderate the event. But considering the role the private sector must play in efforts to slow deforestation and the magnitude of APP’s recent commitments, I felt it was important and appropriate to participate. I wasn't disappointed by the event: the discussion between the robust mix of APP supporters and critics touched on a number of contentious issues ranging from encroachment to APP's deforestation legacy.




These were the participants:
  • Scott Poynton, Executive Director, The Forest Trust (TFT)
  • Bustar Maitar, Head of Indonesia Forest Campaign, Greenpeace
  • Neville Kemp, Ekologika (one of the APP’s HCV Assessors)
  • Aditya Bayunanda, Coordinator of the Global Forest and Trade Network (GTFN), WWF Indonesia
  • Lafcadio Cortesi, Forest Campaign Director, Rainforest Action Network
  • Aida Greenbury, Managing Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Engagement, APP
I will be doing a more extensive write-up soon and video from the event should be available in the next few days, but my initial take away from the discussion is that sentiment toward APP in the NGO community is generally improving as a result of its forestry conservation policy and its apparent greater openness. The tone from major APP critics, RAN and WWF, was considerably more conciliatory than I expected, although neither group is yet willing to give APP the benefit of the doubt by giving the "green light" to buyers. Meanwhile APP is willingly admitting to mistakes, inviting criticism, and engaging key groups like peat experts from Wageningen University and the Rainforest Alliance as an independent auditor.

While it may be easy to dismiss this is a clever marketing or public relations exercise, in my view, these are very significant developments with potential implications that go well beyond APP: already the policy has driven APP's biggest competitor, APRIL, to establish conservation goals — admittedly far weaker than APP's commitments. If APP is ultimately successful in implementing the policy, it could transform the Indonesian forestry sector. What was once thought impossible — zero deforestation — could become best practice for industries ranging from palm oil to plantation timber. Furthermore, it could prompt the Indonesian government to better manage the country's resources and finally start to resolve long-standing and extremely complex tenure issues. For these reasons, APP's progress will certainly be interesting to watch in coming months.


Sunset over a acacia plantation, with natural forest in the background.















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