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Dealing with demand for paper


Our relationship with paper is a key concern for anyone with an eye on the environment, and Tony Juniper has seen the issue recur again and again over his 30 years of campaigning (so far – we suspect a few more are in him yet).

New York Declaration on Forests – businesses, governments and NGOs commit to halting deforestation


Our growing demand for paper has had a big impact on the natural systems that sustain the economy and all life on Earth. Pollution, the loss of natural habitats and the depletion of resources are just some of the effects of our growing need for paper materials.

‘The growth in demand for paper has closely matched growth in the size of the economy. As countries have become more developed, and their citizens able to enjoy the benefits of higher levels of education and consumption, so more paper has been needed to sustain that process.’

Tony Juniper

Traditionally, global paper demand was met by clearing forests and pulping the trees – but the dwindling number of forests has made businesses look for new approaches. Indonesia-based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), for which Tony is an advisor, is just one of the many companies around the world that has realised it needs to factor sustainability into its business practices.

Committing to conservation

APP is one of the world’s biggest producers of pulp, paper and packaging. Aida Greenbury, its Managing Director, Sustainability, has asserted that no fibres from any activity linked to deforestation should be found in APP’s paper products – and the company’s Forest Conservation Policy, which launched in February last year, outlined the requirement that all suppliers must comply with this demand.

‘We knew that our policy was quite radical and that the target is very far-reaching. We committed that we’d cease all natural forest conversion in our supply chain…

‘Our biggest challenge basically is that we had to make sure that the suppliers in our supply chains are in compliance with our policy. They need to protect natural forests, but not only to protect natural forests – they need also to maintain and enhance diversity, they need to protect human rights, they need to implement free and prior informed consent – there are so many principles that need to be adopted by our suppliers.’

Aida Greenbury, Managing Director, Sustainability, Asia Pulp and Paper

The Forest Conservation Policy has been recognised as a positive step for the future of Indonesia’s forests. The Forest Stewardship Council developed a method to record the location of different types of plant growth, signs of animals and existence of species, which is now a recognised approach for gathering all the information needed to reach conservation goals on the ground.

The landscape approach

Many forests in the area are highly fragmented and under the control of a complex mixture of concession holders. Even if one group wanted to save an individual forest, it may not be possible without the cooperation of others. To address this issue, APP’s using a landscape approach which looks at the bigger picture, rather than separate, individual forests. Bespoke strategies that take into account the wider context are then devised to manage individual forests.

‘It comes as a surprise to many that something as familiar and everyday as paper can have such a complex story behind it. But here in the rainforest of Indonesia, real efforts are underway to try and keep the last areas standing. If it can work here, in this complicated environment, it’ll be a signal to the whole world that the journey towards sustainable business is not only possible, but it has a positive and desirable destination.’

Tony Juniper

This landscape management system is crucial now that APP has recently committed to support the protection and restoration of one million hectares of rainforest across Indonesia, with the aid of conservation groups.

‘We should move away from saying “this is the company’s right”, “this is the community’s right”, “this is somebody’s rights”. No. We have to start using the words “we are responsible for this”, “the community is responsible for this”, “business is responsible for this.” Once we have a common ground about what we are responsible for, then we can move forward much better.’

Aida Greenbury, Managing Director, Sustainability, Asia Pulp and Paper

One area where several different groups have cooperated to apply the landscape approach with relative success is Giam Siak Kecil, an area of near-pristine peteland rainforest in Sumatra that has been recognised by the UN as a biosphere reserve. The fact that this area of forest is still here is down to cooperation between APP, the Indonesia government and the state government of the province – with each group bringing its own expertise.

For more about APP’s sustainability journey, visit Tony Juniper is a campaigner, writer, sustainability advisor and leading environmentalist. His latest book, What Has Nature Ever Done for US? (Profile Books, 2013) is available online and from leading bookstores. He is a co-founder of Robertsbridge, the sustainable business advisory group. For more information, visit his website.

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