Early this month, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)—a colossal forestry company that has been broadly criticized for its contribution to deforestation and social conflict in Indonesia—announced a zero deforestation policy that could seriously slow the tide of deforestation in the Southeast Asian country.
For more than a decade, global nonprofit organizations including Greenpeace and the Rainforest Alliance have campaigned against APP for its harmful practices and attempted to work with the behemoth to transform its operations. According to Mongabay:
The concern [about the current declaration] are based on APP’s past performance: over the past decade it egregiously broke high profile agreements with WWF and the Rainforest Alliance to preserve areas designated as high-conservation value. APP also missed three self-imposed targets for phasing out logging of natural forests in Sumatra since 2005 and has engaged in a clumsy public relations strategy.
So what makes this commitment different? According to Reece Turner, head campaigner at Greenpeace, in an interview for The Wire:
It’s important to recognize that Asia Pulp and Paper have made statements that they would end clearing of forests in the past but they were always for future dates…This time, they’ve made an announcement they’ve stopped clearing as of last week. There will be no more natural forests being converted and cleared into plantations. They have opened themselves up to greater transparency, invited nongovernmental organizations in the participation of insuring that they do that.
Richard Donavan, senior vice president of the Rainforest Alliance, told The Wire that he was cautiously optimistic about the company’s commitment.
We think that the new policy they’ve put on the table and negotiated with a number of other parties is a positive step. What really matters is how the actions in the field match those commitments and that’s what we will all be watching.
Donovan also believes that the market for sustainable forestry products has grown, making APP’s commitment more credible.
I do think the marketplace has changed. And sometimes those marketplace dynamics take a while to change. They don’t change overnight. And so I think there’s a greater possibility for success now than there’s ever been. But I think we all have to be really focused in making sure that there’s scrutiny [and] that there’s independence.