During the long campaign to break Asia Pulp & Paper's (APP) deforestation habit there are some headlines I thought I would never get to write. But the above headline, like the news last year that APP would commit to 'No Deforestation', is definitely one of those.
Over a period of ten years of campaigning APP became the posterchild of everything that was wrong in forest management, its name synonymous with Indonesian forest destruction and a large dose of greenwash.
The news today that the company will work with stakeholders to protect and restore an area that is equivalent to the area of plantations that have been developed by the company and its suppliers provides more evidence that APP is changing course. It is a major step forward for APP and for conservation in Indonesia - and builds on the commitments made in APP's Forest Conservation policy to implement the results of independent conservation assessments across its supply chain and to protect all remaining forests in its concessions.
The commitment will focus on key forest landscapes in Sumatra and Kalimantan, and will include work to support conservation for Sumatran tigers, elephants and other species.
The commitment also sets an extremely important precedent – private sector action to support conservation at a scale that acknowledges its previous impact on forests.
But whilst this news is extremely positive, the size of the challenge involved cannot be underestimated. Forest protection in Indonesia require commitments and follow up not just from one company, significant though this is, but from all those businesses that have expanded into forest areas. It also requires the reform of legislation in Indonesia and a willingness to enforce existing laws – at the moment the situation is so bad that even our national parks, such as Tesso Nilo, are suffering from illegal deforestation for plantations.
The Indonesian pulp sector is dominated by two groups – APP and the RGE group companies (including APRIL and Toba Pulp Lestari). APP's sustainability commitments stop its involvement in deforestation, apply to the entire group and with today's announcement include a restoration commitment equivalent to the area held by the company and its suppliers in plantations.
Piles of rainforest logs on recently cleared deep peatland in Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL)'s PT RAPP pulpwood concession on the Kampar peninsula. 07/06/2013
RGE's commitments only apply to one company in the group (APRIL), allow deforestation to continue and include only an aspiration to restore an equivalent area to that held in plantations.
Greenpeace calls on all customers of RGE pulp companies to immediately suspend contracts until the group stops it's involvement in deforestation and addresses other shortcomings in its forest conservation commitments.
Zulfahmi is a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.