What does take-away food packaging have to do with protecting Sumatran elephants? More than you might think. In 2013 Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the global market leaders of out-of-home packaging, decided to take a big step forward towards the sustainability of their supply chain by launching their ambitious Forest Conservation Policy. But the company goes far beyond that. APP is also reaching out to local and international stakeholders within the complex landscapes in which they operate. Together with the Belantara Foundation, APP has initiated hundreds of community empowerment projects. Why are they taking their corporate social responsibility at such great length?
APP has 9 production facilities in Indonesia and more than 20 in China. Inevitably these facilities have impact on neighbouring communities, but APP is developing several programmes to make their production sustainable and socially responsible. With the FCP, APP has committed itself to stop natural forest clearance, to protect the forested peatlands, to respect indigenous, human and workers’ rights and to support community forestry. Yet APP believes that companies must go beyond supply chain sustainability and truly engage themselves in conservation and restoration programmes. That’s why the company has committed to conserve and restore 1 million ha. of forest, equaling the size of Jamaica or 1.4 million football fields.
Despite these commitments, many challenges remain such as illegal encroachment, social conflicts and forest fires. Local communities often lack access to basic resources and therefore depend on their immediate surroundings. In their struggle to survive, they threaten the environment through illegal logging and slash-and-burn to open up new areas for agriculture.
Prevention is far better than cure. Fighting poverty and empowering local communities is crucial to engage locals in protecting natural forests. Local communities are key stakeholders in the Indonesian landscape and APP understands that co-operation with all stakeholders acting around the concession areas is necessary. As APP’s former Sustainability Head Aida Greenbury stated: ‘We can’t do it alone.’ This is why APP embraces a multi-stakeholder approach. It’s a challenging process to identify the rights and responsibilities of all stakeholders involved versus their expectations and the different usages of land. Yet in the long run, it is the best way to protect natural forests and create sustainable businesses.
APP has designated 10 priority landscapes in consultation with its stakeholders for conservation and restoration. These landscapes are the focus of the work of the Belantara Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation created by APP’s initiative in 2014. The foundation is an important collaboration platform for local communities, civil society, local governments and businesses. Belantara co-ordinates the different initiatives of those engaged in conservation projects focusing on the rainforests of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Belantara allows the channeling of public and private financing towards local communities and other actors who carry out forest conservation and biodiversity protection projects. It funds research and community agroforestry programmes that help restore natural forests and protect endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, elephant and orang-utan. Belantara also offers empowerment programmes to strengthen local economies relying heavily on natural resources. These programmes support locals to switch to more sustainable forms of farming, strengthen their business skills and start local businesses.
An example of the work of the foundation is the project initiated by Belantara in the Bukit Tigapuluh region in Eastern Sumatra. The elephants here are critically endangered because their habitats deteriorate. Local NGOs working with Belantara seek to minimise human-wildlife conflict through forestry management, for instance by making feeding pockets and elephant corridors. Awareness and education programmes help preventing human-elephant conflict. Besides elephant protection, the project also protects the livelihoods of locals and improves local living standards.
Another way in which APP is reaching out to local stakeholders is by its award winning Integrated Forestry and Farming System that was launched at COP21 in Paris, December 2015. IFFS is a $10 million programme to promote community projects in 500 villages. By May 2017, 75 villages implemented IFFS activities across five Indonesian provinces. APP aims to have 200 villages involved by December 2017. A first evaluation last January shows communication between the communities and APP has improved and that local stakeholders have become more involved.
It is clear that APP has made good progress in landscape management since they made supply chain sustainability their business policy. Yet a sustainable supply chain is not enough to restore the balance between landscape conservation, local community welfare and sustainable growth. This is why APP has taken their social responsibility to an entire new level. Together with Belantara, they build bridges between multiple stakeholders and empower local communities so they will engage in protecting the natural forest and its wildlife.
As Thich Nhat Hanh recently phrased it: ‘If you want to save the planet, if you want to transform society, you need a strong community.’
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