By Vanessa Mak
Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) hosted six university representatives from Hong Kong in mid-November for a week-long visit to its operations in Indonesia. Amongst the representatives were four professors and two postgraduate students with research interests in biodiversity conservation, corporate environmental management, sustainable capitalism and ESG reporting. They were invited to inquire into how the Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) has been implemented on the ground, and to provide comments on ways to improve policy implementation.
Hong Kong is a major hub for higher education in Asia Pacific, with growing research capabilities in environmental management and climate change mitigation. APP has been engaging Hong Kong sustainability experts so that best practices and insights from this knowledge hub can be fed back to its operations in China and Indonesia.
The visitors represented the School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong; the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School; and the Division of Environment, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. During the five-day tour, they visited the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve, Indah Kiat Perawang Pulp and Paper Mill, the Arara Abadi R&D Centre and the Arboretum and Elephant Park.
Rounds of in-depth interviews and informal meetings were held between the visitors, APP’s sustainability team and partner NGOs to discuss the supply chain and regulatory challenges for forest conservation not only in APP concessions, but also in Indonesia as a whole. Issues including overlapping land use licenses, incentives for local communities and other natural resource industries to end natural forest logging, as well as the need for strengthened enforcement of land use regulationswere discussed. The visitors were affirmative of the direction APP is taking and also recognized the challenges APP is facing.
Robert Gibson, Adjunct Professor from the Division of Environment at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, one of the visitors, said, “Seeing the speed with which plantation trees grow on the equator and the operation of the Indah Kiat mill made me feel APP has the potential to produce paper with the lowest ecological impact in the world. That is, for a given output of paper it has the potential to use the least land, have the lowest carbon footprint and have least impact on water resources. This is a tough but great destination for APP to work towards.”
During the meetings, APP’s NGO partners stressed the importance of trust building. Our NGO partners shared that through the years, they have built a trusted partnership with APP as both parties gained mutual understanding of their shared values and invested time in finding solutions to obstacles. It was this partnership that enabled the development and implementation of APP’s FCP.
As we sought feedback from the Hong Kong visitors, we also shared our lessons learnt from the FCP implementation for their academic use. Since the launch of our FCP in February 2013, we have undertaken an integrated high conservation value and high carbon stock assessments throughout our operations. These assessments have revealed many opportunities and challenges that have to be realised or overcome through cross-sector partnerships and collaboration. Contribution to academic learning about forest management on the ground is critical to enabling the new generation of leaders and practitioners to recognise these opportunities and challenges. This is the type of contribution that we will continue to make through our engagement efforts in Hong Kong.