06.01.2015 |
Zero Deforestation - The View from Down South

Arthur Gonoretzky, Managing Director of APP Latin America, ponders the comparisons between Brazil’s track record in slowing deforestation with that of his own company’s experiences in Indonesia

At a recent media roundtable, Ian Lifshitz and I met select Brazilian journalists, to discuss the profound changes occurring within our industry and company.  As the head of APP in Latin America and an APP newcomer, I am interested to see the experiences of my own company in tackling this pressing issue side by side with that of Brazil.

During two decades working in our industry, I have witnessed remarkable changes in our sector. The last ten years saw deforestation in the Amazon fall dramatically as a result of strong government and private sector initiatives.  Most recent satellite  analysis, though, shows this downward trend reversing, seemingly as a result of increased clearance for agriculture. This should not obscure the story behind a decade’s success. Rather it points to the difficulty of maintaining such a rapid reversal of deforestation across such a vast area, with increasing social and commercial pressures.

Change grew from the combined efforts of many stakeholders. Brazilian regional governments helped by expanding their protected areas, giving the indigenous inhabitants the rights to protect their land, toughening up laws and enforcing them with fines, seizures and even jail. Advances in technology enabled improved forest monitoring. Other stakeholders, notably human rights and environmental NGOs, also played an important role by focusing attention on the soy and beef industries roles in deforestation.

The charts below illustrate some of this.


That Brazil’s progress in halting deforestation was remarkable is recognized around the world, and the technology that policed it is also responsible for drawing attention so swiftly to the abrupt change in this success story – causing concern among governments, NGOs, businesses and stakeholders everywhere. We can hope therefore that this instant exposure will lead to even quicker resolution of the problem.  

I’ve been with APP for under two years but my timing has been perfect to witness remarkable change on the other side of the world too. APP’s great behind the scenes work began well before my first day at work as the organization began the process of overcoming years of  distrust among stakeholders. Conflict turned into cooperation as APP began having more open and constructive dialogue with environmental NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders to create its Forest Conservation Policy. Sound familiar?  Similar to Brazil, this groundbreaking Policy not only includes a Zero Deforestation commitment, which went into immediate effect, but also High Conservation Value Forest and High Carbon Stock assessments, support of the Government of Indonesia’s low emission development goals, responsible forest management in all of its fiber sourcing, and the protection of indigenous rights through the principles of “Free, Prior and Informed Consent.” Protection of the forest is combined with protection of human rights. And finally a remarkable commitment to restore about one million hecares of rainforest.

APP has combined an extraordinary Forest Conservation Policy with exceptional transparency, close working relationships with stakeholders, and additional commitments.  We’ve allowed any interested person to track our progress through an online dashboard created by The Forest Trust and publicly released progress reports. We’ve analysed our ability to maintain pulp supplies and keep our Zero Deforestation promise, and put our future partners on notice that they must meet our standards to work with us. We’ve partnered with environmental campaigners, asked forest experts for help, worked closely with our most voal former critic, Greenpeace.

As with Brazil, three things stand out as having the ability to hold those who commit to reducing or eliminating deforestation to account. Technology, the continuing scrutiny of NGO stakeholders, and private sector buy-in. In Brazil’s case, these ‘policing’ criteria ought to ensure that the recent reversal of declining deforestation is itself reversed in short order; in APP’s case, we know that the world’s eyes, and in particular those of our many customers with powerful environmental procurement policies, are on us and it is in ours, as well as the planet’s interests that we succeed. It is not easy – we are one company, attempting to impose a radical policy across a vast area, in the face of enormous challenges. So we are more aware than most of the issues that face the Brazilian government and people in dealing with similar issues. Zero deforestation is a global challenge and should be a global goal.


Arthur Gonoretzky

Managing Director of APP, Latin America


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