When 2 opposing forces can be presented alongside each other, sometimes all becomes a lot clearer. In the case of The Rainforest Alliance and the Asia Pulp and Paper company (APP), perhaps you will agree. The Alliance audited all of the pledges made by this beleaguered deforester and came up with quite a surprising result.
2013 saw the APP presenting a Forest Conservation Policy in response to conservationists who really would rather it just gave up. Those tropical rainforests are almost lost and constitute perhaps the most precious resource on earth. We just can’t price it! Pulping paper from wood or growing monocultures of oil palms just seems sensible if you look at the profits. How can you capitalise on a tiny frog hidden in the leaf litter?
The answer is that you can, but it takes publicity, tourism and a whole lot of new problems, but at least it is possible to maintain your forest for future use. It is called sustainability, but not the kind that grows acres of spruce or acacia for paper, depending on your climate.
Last week the Rainforest Alliance revealed they thought that APP had met many pledges, so somebody has put some work in on the forestry side. What do Rainforest Alliance mean though by seeming to support the enemy! Richard Donovan reveals the skew on the argument while his opposite number, Aida Greenbury (good name), who is the manager of sustainability at APP welcomes them with the statement,
the evaluation provides valuable feedback and we are pleased in any areas where our progress is acknowledged and verified. We believe that the report recognizes our efforts to achieve deforestation are on the right track. However, our Forest Conservation Policy and measures are not carved in stone. We must have the courage to continually improve the policy as we go. That certainly beats the lack of progress with another pulp and paper producer, APRIL, who are busy destroying the Padung Island environment, off the Sumatran coast.
Aida obviously intends to implement her action plan in 2015, to update the Forest Conservation Policy. The audit of 21 APP concessions in Borneo and Sumatra, mainly involving fieldwork, listing goals achieved or progress in the form of
Despite the lack of any glaringly successful progress, the Alliance stated that moderate progress had been made in halting the clearance of natural forest and engaging with one community and NGOs. Mixed tropical hardwood supplies had also been halted by the company, although I would want some definitions there, as many mixed hardwoods were cut before the FCP came into force. Positive moves in ending business with rogue suppliers sounds a much better move, but only one supplier has been excommunicated so far.
The worst comments on this audit are around the lack of commitment to indigenous communities and their rights. Hundreds of conflicts have arisen, with only one resolution agreement so far. It seems that APP have to learn to give a little, in order to achieve their own objectives. Lafcadio Cortesi of another group, the Rainforest Action Network brought up this point while Christopher Barr of Woods and Wayside International has indicated that
The Rainforest Alliance report says nothing about whether APP’s existing plantation resource base will be able to meet the group’s fiber supply on a sustainable basis over the medium-to-long-term.
Meanwhile, APP’s Aida Greenbury sticks by her guns and points out that encroachment, wildfires, agriculture and mining all contribute to more loss of natural forest. Their FCP still protects Indonesian forest and attacks the resulting effects of climate change. Our relief is in seeing a slowing of the deforestation, on paper even if the paper production and the pulping continues. Here is the Mongabay news report by Robert S. Eshelman. Further background is provided by, among others, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Friends of the Earth in More or less protection for Indonesian forests?