Talking with companies after my panel discussion at the Tissue World Americas conference, it’s clear that many buyers of tissue and paper products have questions about whether they should reward Asia Pulp and Paper’s (APP) forest pledge with purchasing contracts.
I’ll reiterate here the advice I gave to these individuals and to any company committed to responsible sourcing: Don’t. It’s too soon.
Recent moves by APP like the company’s announcement last year of its new Forest Conservation Policy, its work with consultant TFT, and its extensive discussions with Greenpeace have been received with cautious optimism by many stakeholders. WWF recognizes the value of these actions, and the resources that APP is investing to implement its commitments. WWF continues to engage in discussions with APP and other stakeholders.
- Independent evaluation of progress against APP’s 2013 Forest Policy Commitments, as well as the performance milestones that the Environmental Paper Network (EPN) outlined last September. Without independent verification of progress, no company can confirm yet that APP is a non-controversial source.
- A more robust, specific and time-bound commitment by APP on restoration and/or compensation to address its decades of impacts on Indonesia’s forests, wildlife and local communities, as well as the global climate through continuing peat emissions.
WWF believes that responsible companies should wait for these elements to fall into place before buying tissue or paper products from APP.
The good news is that such independent evaluation is underway. At the end of January, Rainforest Alliance announced that it will conduct an evaluation that will provide the first third party assessment of APP’s performance against its Forest Conservation Policy commitments related to protecting high conservation value and high carbon stock areas, managing peatlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and obtaining free, prior and informed consent from local communities. Nevertheless, it is unclear yet whether the EPN milestones will be part of the audit. This is critical, as it means that important steps may not be assessed.
For the sake of Indonesia’s forests, people and wildlife, abandoning deforestation after so much damage has been done cannot on its own be rewarded. APP's commitment came at the point when little forest not already under legal protection remained in its Sumatra concessions. Its Forest Conservation Policy lacks concrete commitments for restoration/compensation to redress this legacy of forest destruction.
WWF applauds companies that are waiting for this independent verification and more commitment by APP on restoration/compensation. WWF also urges paper buyers to preference products certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard, which ensures that the fiber the company sources comes from forests and plantations that have been managed to the highest social and environmental standards.
Today, as we celebrate World Forestry Day, we must also remember that “deforestation-free” does not in and of itself equal responsible forestry. FSC certification remains the best tool to ensure that products you buy not only avoid deforestation but also support best practices in environmentally and socially responsible forestry.
Linda Walker is the director of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network in North America, where she works with leading companies to realize both the business and sustainability benefits of responsible forest products sourcing.