An Ongoing Journey: Prioritizing Transparency and Sustainability in Business

A quick look at the environmental news of late shows a trend: Major corporations are recognizing smarter environmental decisions equal good business decisions. In the past few months alone, companies including McDonald’s and Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, made public commitments to zero deforestation, a movement that is critical to protecting the environment and creating more sustainable supply chains. When done right, sustainability and zero deforestation policies lead to improved brand image, and build stronger business relationships with other organizations and customers. While the long-term benefits are clear, any company embarking on this journey must be mindful of the challenges ahead.

When Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) announced its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in February 2013, we understood that the road ahead would be challenging, and require patience, focus and perseverance. Just over two years into it, the zero deforestation commitment is held firm by all of our suppliers, and we continue to learn and improve our approach to effectively implement the FCP across our supply chain. Here are several key takeaways we learned so far:

Find the Right NGO Partners and Listen

Third-party oversight is an essential element of any sustainability initiative, especially when your environmental practices were the public target of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for many years. Show those who criticized you in the past that you are not only listening, but also value their expertise by engaging them to help you throughout the process.

When we created the FCP, we understood the importance of closely partnering with environmental NGOs like Greenpeace, The Forest Trust and other prominent organizations in order to achieve our goals, but what we didn’t realize was just how critical this collaboration would be to our success. Furthermore, along the way, we identified additional partners to bring into the fold to provide collaborative expertise.

Working with activists and NGOs who were once your opponents—and whom you may not always agree with—will challenge you, but stakeholder collaboration is essential to building the right policies for your company. Moreover, by engaging extensively with NGOs and other third-party organizations, you are demonstrating a steadfast commitment to reforming your policies in a way that ensures you are held accountable. We engaged with an independent NGO, the Rainforest Alliance, to demonstrate our seriousness in providing accountability in our policy implementation. The Rainforest Alliance independently evaluated the implementation of the FCP in what is perhaps the only such zero deforestation evaluation exercise in the world. These actions reinforce brand credibility, and strengthen relationships with customers and other critical stakeholders.

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