In 2014, companies, together with governments and civil society actors, came together to sign the New York Declaration on Forests. Three years later, the momentum has only grown – at least from the corporate perspective. At New York Climate Week last month, a number of companies, including Citigroup, Kellogg and VF Corporation, signed ambitious commitments in fighting climate change and meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These pledges are ambitious, admirable, and something other companies should be inspired by. Action by corporates – including funding and commitments to renewable energy and sustainable sourcing – are critically important. However, we must also recognise that when it comes to tackling problems like climate change and deforestation, we must find collective solutions.

The reality is that companies cannot assume responsibility for protecting forests single-handedly.

For APP, our journey in trying to become better stewards of the forests has involved a process of coming to terms with the reality that the key to protecting forests is collaboration; coming together and working together to make sure that the sum of our efforts is greater than its parts. This is important in two senses.

First, collective ambition is a powerful means of spurring companies to individual action. Supply Change’s latest report, Tracking Corporate Commitments to Deforestation-Free Supply Chains – 2017, has found that participation in groups that work towards finding solutions to deforestation-free supply chains is a significant driver in pushing companies to make individual commitments. This is positive peer pressure in action: at least 95 percent of participants in groups such as the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA 2020) have adopted individual pledges.

APP’s commitments on zero deforestation were first launched in 2012 and 2013 through our Sustainability Roadmap 2020 and Forest Conservation Policy (FCP). As part of this process we put in place frameworks to monitor and manage over 10 key impact areas of our business and wider supply chain. Key indicators within these policies included 100 percent independent third-party verification for pulpwood legality, 100 percent pulpwood from sustainable forest management certified sources, and zero fibre sourcing from natural forest. Building on these commitments, the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014 was an important opportunity for us to join others to commit collectively to a timeline to reduce deforestation and promote forest restoration. Being part of a broader movement has certainly driven us to be more ambitious and committed, knowing that other companies share our aspirations.

Second, working together means collaboration in the landscape. The majority of threats that forests face, from illegal logging to floods to fires, do not respect concession boundaries. As a company, we can take measures to safeguard forests within our own concessions, but working more effectively across the whole landscape requires a broader partnership approach.

That is why for the last two years APP and the Belantara Foundation (set up as an independent foundation with seed funding from APP, to implement programmes outside our concessions) have been working on multi-stakeholder approaches in partnership with governments, NGOs, and others across a number of critical landscapes. The key here is leadership by local government: APP works closely with both the South Sumatran and West Kalimantan governments to support the development and implementation of their green growth plans, which are based on a collaborative approach between all stakeholders active in the landscape. APP works with these provincial governments on sustainable forest management, focusing on forest fire prevention, working directly with local communities, as well as the implementation of best practices in peatland management. Corporate commitments are to be welcomed, and resources announced at climate week such as P4G, a platform to convene diverse stakeholders across business, policy and communities to drive green economic growth, will make a vital contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change. It’s important as we ponder the future of forests around the world, that we align our efforts and aspirations with national and sub-national level plans and commitments, and work together with all other partners in the landscape, in order to find a sustainable solution to ending deforestation. Accelerating the implementation of jurisdictional programmes has been identified as a priority area in accelerating progress in addressing commodity-driven deforestation in the recently published Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020 by TFA 2020. An area we will look to move forward with TFA 2020 members in the year ahead. These partnerships are what will take us beyond ambition and towards reality, and these must be the basis for companies as they start to plan further down the line, looking beyond 2020.

This is how we at APP are approaching our own long-term planning. How can we align our own ambitions and resources with other actors who share our values and aspirations? How do we build on the progress we have made in the last few years, since our FCP was launched and since we first joined forces with other actors in New York in 2014, to agree new goals beyond 2020? How do we ensure that our own efforts contribute and support the efforts of national and sub-national governments in Indonesia, as well as the broader SDGs? And how can we ensure that our own plans help others within our supply chain, including our customers, achieve their own goals? These are some of the questions that APP will be trying to answer as we look ahead beyond 2020. One thing is clear: collective action and collaboration will be the foundation of our strategy. 

Elim Sritaba is the Director of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement of Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP).

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