After announcing in early February that it had discontinued sourcing paper from threatened Indonesian rainforests, a representative of Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) was at the International Toy Fair Show in New York last week to explain the policy to toy companies and children’s book publishers. APP is the third-largest paper supplier in the world, and under the new Forest Conservation Policy, APP and its suppliers have promised that all of their Indonesian paper going forward will be 100% plantation-grown and that the entire supply chain will follow High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) principles. They committed to not developing forested areas or peat fields and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And they pledged to work with local groups and other stakeholders to minimize the negative environmental and social ramifications of their business in Indonesia.
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other advocacy groups have criticized APP for its negative impact on the Indonesian landscape. After pressure from these groups, the 10 largest children’s publishers, along with dozens of other companies, including Disney and Mattel, stopped purchasing paper from APP and other Indonesian suppliers over the last two years.
“There’s a place for APP within [these companies’] sustainable procurement policies,” maintained Ian Lifshitz, APP’s director of sustainability for the Americas. He was at the toy fair to address questions and concerns from customers and former customers. “It will take time,” he added. “It’s a process, and we have to prove ourselves as well.” APP supplies paper for toy and consumer products, packaging, playing cards, and board games, as well as books.
RAN commented after APP’s announcement that the company’s new commitments could be a milestone for Indonesia’s forests and people. But it also expressed concerns about APP’s human rights track record, broken sustainability promises, and ongoing plans to build a huge pulp mill in Indonesia. “APP will not be seen as a responsible company in the marketplace until its new commitments are implemented and it resolves the devastating rainforest and human rights crises it has caused in Indonesia,” said Lafcadio Cortesi, Asia director for RAN.
“ [RAN’s] role is to be checks and balances,” responded Lifshitz. He pointed out that APP worked with other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the Forest Trust, along with customers and other stakeholders, in developing and implementing the new policy, which Greenpeace commended. “That’s been one of our key takeaways—that we need to work together with our multiple stakeholders. We’ll continue to do that as we progress. We don’t want to work in isolation,” Lifshitz said.
Customers, industry members, and environmentalists have reacted positively for the most part to the announcement, Lifshitz claimed. Last summer the company committed to being 100% plantation-supplied on its own land by this February, and secured agreement from its suppliers that they would make the same transition within two years. Currently all have stopped using rainforest wood ahead of that schedule, according to Lifshitz.
“It’s all about a sustainable supply chain from start to finish, with multiple checks and balances the whole way,” he explained, adding that APP employs 70,000 Indonesians and that economic development has to go hand-in-hand with social and environmental factors. “We’re looking at the whole green-cycle approach,” said Lifshitz.