One year after a huge milestone for Indonesian forests

by Amy Moas

February 18, 2014

Orphaned orangutan housed at Frankfurt Zoological Society orangutan rehabilitation centre within the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in Jambi, Sumatra. The decline of orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo has been driven by the destruction of their rainforest habitat, principally due to the expansion of pulpwood and oil palm plantations.

© Greenpeace / Oka Budhi

Where were you on February 5, 2013, when one of the worlds largest pulp and paper companies committed to end deforestation? It is a time that we at Greenpeace will never forget.

We had spent nearly 3 years campaigning against Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), and with the help of Greenpeace supporters, we had already gotten major companies like Mattel and KFC to stop buying the rainforest destroyers paper.

Finally, one year ago, APP pledged to turn over a new leaf. A lot has happened since then, and we’ve learned so much.

Nine months after APPs zero Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), we announced the company was making good progress in implementation, and we were satisfied with the strength of the commitment shown by its senior staff. Predictably it hasnt all been smooth sailing, and there are still further actions APP can pursue to strengthen its delivery.

A tiger in Sumatra's Buki Barisan National Park.

A tiger in Sumatra’s Buki Barisan National Park.

Now one year later, we can reflect back on the historic year for Indonesias rainforests. Here are the top 9 conclusions of the year.

  1. Protecting forests, peatlands, and the rights of local and indigenous communities does not have an end date. Zero deforestation must be a permanent part of a companys business model.
  2. Even for companies whose entire model of business is predicated on the use of natural resources, it is possible to protect this planets natural resources for future generations. We could protect so much rainforest today, if only there were the willpower and motivation to do it.
  3. Other companies need to join APP and set a zero deforestation goal. There are so many opportunities and obstacles, most of which will not be realized or resolved by the commitments of just one company, no matter how commendable they are.
  4. APPs largest rival in Indonesia, Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) illustrates points #2 and #3 perfectly. APRIL refuses to follow APPs lead in putting an immediate moratorium on further rainforest clearance. APRIL is now the largest driver of deforestation in Indonesias pulp and paper industry. Between 2009-2011, the company was responsible for a sixth of all forested tiger habitat loss, including the destruction of areas of primary forest and deep peatland.
    Recently cleared peatland forest, allegedly done by a palm oil company in the Duta Palma Group. Although APP's commitment is a huge first step, other industries will have to be involved.

    Recently cleared peatland forest, allegedly done by a palm oil company in the Duta Palma Group. Although APP’s commitment is a huge first step, other industries will have to be involved.

  5. Overlapping licenses, where more than one natural resource company is permitted to exploit the same plot of land, makes preservation very difficult. Why would any one company choose to protect an area if another company could legally come in and destroy it for its own gain? The Indonesian government needs to work to eliminate this conflict. Greenpeace will continue to work toward a policy solution on this issue in Indonesia.
  6. It is not just pulp and paper companies that will determine the future of our planet. Other industries must embrace zero deforestation. On December 5, 2013, exactly 10 months after APPs announcement, Wilmar International, the worlds largest player in the palm oil industry, established a zero deforestation, zero peatland, zero human exploitation policy. If it is properly implemented, it could transform the historically destructive palm oil industry.
  7. The Orangutan and Sumatran tiger need a lot more than for companies to do the right thing. Only about 400 Sumatran tigers exist in the wild. Their rainforest home is being steadily destroyed by APRIL, palm oil companies, and other extractive industries. Time is running out.
    Fishermen on Sumatra's Kampar River. Protecting Indonesia's forests will require cooperating with and respecting local communities and ways of life.

    Fishermen on Sumatra’s Kampar River. Protecting Indonesia’s forests requires cooperating with and respecting local communities.

  8. Saving the rainforest is not just about orangutans and tigers. Indigenous people and local communities rely on the Indonesian rainforest for their livelihood. APP has a number of social conflicts to resolve, but it has put policies and procedures in place to tackle them. Conflict resolution will take time, patience and collaboration.
  9. Consumers have power. If you care about what is happening in our planets rainforests, then it is up to you to tell companies to listen. We have seen how consumer demand for zero deforestation paper helped drive APP to change one year ago. We are seeing how demand for zero deforestation palm oil is driving companies like Ferrero, Unilever, Nestle, Mondelez (formerly Kraft), LOreal, and Hershey to change their ways.

The first year of APPs new way of doing business is a cause for optimism. But we can never stop learning and fighting for a day when the worlds rainforests are free from chainsaws and bulldozers. APP’s journey toward zero deforestation will help point the way there.

Amy Moas

By Amy Moas

Amy Moas, Ph.D. is a senior forest campaigner for Greenpeace based in Las Vegas. She focuses on combating the drivers of deforestation around the world including palm oil, pulp and paper, and illegal logging.

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