Yesterday was a good day. It was a day that my colleagues in Indonesia and around the world feared might never come. It was a day when that we have taken a huge step closer to saving remaining rainforests of Indonesia and the communities and endangered species who call them home.
Last night, in Jakarta, the notorious rainforest destroyer Asia Pulp and Paper, the world’s third largest paper supplier and owner of New Zealand based Cottonsoft, launched its new ‘Forest Conservation Policy’ committing to “end the "clearing of natural forest" across its entire supply chain, with immediate effect[i]”.
Many of my colleagues have invested endless hours over the last decade to expose the role that APP has played in the destruction of rainforests and persuade them to take this positive step. After a great deal of blood, toil, sweat and tears, last night the company did just that – announcing an immediate moratorium on further forest clearance and a range of measures to stop its role in deforestation.
We could not have got to this point without many of you, around the world, who helped to persuade dozens of well-known brands to suspend contracts with APP. And here in New Zealand, companies like The Warehouse took decisive and responsible action to end their relationship with Cottonsoft after our investigation scientifically proved that some of their toilet paper brands contained rainforest fibre.
Yet despite this compelling evidence, Cottonsoft did its best to mislead the New Zealand public by making erroneous claims about the credibility of our forensic testing, bank rolling a PR machine and enlisting local cheerleader the Food and Grocery Council’s Katherine Rich to boost their efforts[ii].
So yesterday’s decision by APP was a reminder that by simply spending millions of dollars on PR efforts was not going to change its reputation or bring back lost customers. Only it is only action, not finely crafted words that will deliver the change needed.
And the announcement started with an admission by APP’s Aida Greenbury that: “Enough is enough,” she said. “We have to stop converting natural forest now and save whatever is left. That’s what we expect other players to do now as well[iii].”
However, although this is a significant step forward, which follows the many recent meetings we've had with APP, it is also just the beginning of change for a company that has heavily relied on deforestation for too long.
We will be watching very carefully to ensure that APP is delivering where it really matters – on the ground, in the rainforests. Our advice to former customers of APP reflects that: policy commitments will not be enough – it's only through their delivery that APP can start to win back the business that it has lost in recent years.
Together, we can build on this achievement and move ever closer to ending deforestation in Indonesia.