President APRIL Praveen Singhavi (four from right) and President Director PT. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Tony Wenas (two from left) signed Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0 witnessed by (from left to right) Director General Sustainable Forest Management Ministry of Environmental and Forestry Ida Bagus Putera Parthama, Chairman Stakeholders Advisory Committee (SAC) Joseph Lawson, Director RGE Anderson Tanoto, Greenpeace Bustar Maitar. (GA Photo/Suhadi)

April's Sustainability Pledge Cautiously Welcomed By Green Groups


JUNE 04, 2015

Asia Pacific Resources International, known as April, started a $17 million peatland restoration project in Riau’s heavily degraded Kampar Peninsula Kampar peninsula in Sumatra in 2013. It recently introduced the second version of the Sustainable Forest Management Policy, known as SMFP 2.0, which enhances conservation commitments made by the company last year. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Jakarta. Wednesday marked a new turn for Asia Pacific Resources International, or April, as the company — among the largest of Asia's pulp and paper companies – announced a new sustainability policy which has received cautious praise from environmental groups.

April, a management company which controls the pulp and paper businesses of the Tanoto family, held a rare press conference in which Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner Bustar Maitar also participated.

In the past Greenpeace has actively campaigned against the company, which has cleared vast tracts of Indonesian forest, and asked April's buyers and lenders to boycott the company.

On Thursday, however, the green group said it commended the company for its introduction of the second version of the Sustainable Forest Management Policy, known as SMFP 2.0, which enhances conservation commitments made by the company last year.

Some of the advancements that caught Greenpeace's attention, said Bustar, were the pledges by April to halt the harvesting of all-natural forest. This has been in practice since May 15. The previous SMFP allowed for timber from rainforests to be used in the company's pulp mills until 2020.

Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which also attended the event, have both said they will be watching the implementation of the policy carefully.

The updated policy also adds a High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessment to the current conservation commitments. HCS gives definition for any forest more robust than shrubland.

April reinforced its 1-for-1 commitment announced in the previous pledge, to conserve forest areas equal in size to its 480,000 hectares of plantation area. About 70 percent of this target has been completed.

“It really is a monumental day for me, at least personally ... because two of our biggest critics are right next to us. This is really the concept of confrontation to collaboration. I am really looking forward to working with [them],” said Anderson Tanoto, a director at Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), April's parent company.

WWF welcomed April's SMFP 1.0 in January 2014 and has been part of a Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) which monitors the implementation of the policy.

“The expanded SFMP is an encouraging signal of April's intention in contributing to the long term sustainability of forest in Indonesia,” said Efransjah, chief executive of WWF Indonesia.

“As a member of April's SAC, we will continue to give input as well as monitor implementation with other civil society groups to ensure April delivers on its commitments.”

Praveen Singhavi, President of Asia Pacific Resources International, or April, (four from right) and President Director of Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Tony Wenas (two from left) signed Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0, witnessed by Director General of Sustainable Forest Management at Ministry of Environmental and Forestry Ida Bagus Putera Parthama  (left), the Chairman of the Stakeholders Advisory Committee (SAC) Joseph Lawson (third from right), Director of Royal Golden Eagle Anderson Tanoto (second from right) and Greenpeace campaigner Bustar Maitar (right). (GA Photo/Suhadi)

Different approach

Anderson, son of the firm’s founder Sukanto Tanoto, has emphasized since his first media appearance in July 2013 his desire to take the company in a different direction, and to address the environmental concerns which have long dogged April.

Anderson’s father was last year ranked 11th on GlobeAsia’s list of wealthy individuals, with a net worth of $2.2 billion.

His RGE-controlled holding company has a diversified business, including pulp and paper, palm oil, petroleum and gas spanning Indonesia, China, Singapore, Brazil and Canada.

April controls a 1,750-hectare manufacturing complex in Kerinci, one of the biggest single-site pulp mills in the world, able to produce about 2.8 million tons of pulp and 820,000 tons of paper per year. Its PaperOne line of office paper product now sells in more than 75 countries.

The company held a ground-breaking ceremony for a new Rp 4 trillion ($305 million) paper production facility in Riau province last month that will produce high-grade digital paper, designed for high-quality digital color printing. The move is expected to boost the group’s production capacity to 1.15 million tons per year from the current 820,000 tons per year.

Anderson, dubbed a future leader among the family's next generation, wants to ensure that the sustainable business promises of April are introduced at RGE-level, as well as among April's suppliers.

SMFP 2.0 brings in to immediate effect a policy stating April and its suppliers will only develop areas which are not forested, as identified through the high conservation value (HCV) and HCS assessments. That also means April's suppliers must actively protect HCV and HCS areas.

April currently manages more than 250,000 hectares of conservation area and 70,000 hectares of ecosystem restoration area.

From mid-May, along with its suppliers, April halted all harvesting of mixed hardwoods, while the mixed hardwoods harvested before May 15 will be utilized by April's mill before the end of the year.

April president Praveen Singhavi said in a statement that Wednesday’s announcement was “a major step” in the company’s 15-year journey to convince the public of its sustainability practices.

The statement said that nearly 15 years ago, the group pioneered implementation of what it called “a chain of custody system” to ensure no wood chopped illegally entered its mill.

It was followed by a move, in 2005, in which it claimed to be the first company “to voluntarily adopt conservation assessments” to protect rainforest within its land concessions.

Two years ago, the company started its $17 million worth of eco-restoration projects, which now accounts for 70,000 hectares of previously degraded land.

Campaigns start to pay off

During Wednesday’s press briefing, IB Putera Parthama, a director general at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said he welcomed April's move, but the government was waiting for the implementation of the policy.

Bustar said new commitments under the SMFP 2.0 were “key to accelerate no deforestation."

Still, he said Greenpeace has yet to officially pledge full support and it was still in “wait-and-see” mode to see the realization of the program.

“We’d like to see this commitment is fully implemented on the ground ... We will strongly monitor what’s happening on the ground,” he said.

In an article on Greepeace’s official website on Wednesday Bustar wrote “years of campaigning to end forest destruction [in Indonesia] are starting to pay off.

“Indonesia’s biggest pulp and paper company, and some of its biggest palm oil companies and traders, have promised to turn their backs on deforestation,” he added.

Bustar said deforestation commitment was the outcome of actions by environmental activists that have forced major brands including Nestlé, Unilever, P&G and Mattel to agree to stop buying the products linked to deforestation.

Wednesday's announcement could signal a new chapter in the relationship between Greenpeace and April. In January, Greenpeace advised companies world-wide to stop trading with April and other affiliated pulp andpaper companies owned by RGE until it committed to protecting natural forests and peatlands.

April's move follows a similar announcement by Sinar Mas-affiliated pulp and paper company, Asia Pulp & Paper, in 2013.

In September last year, some major palm oil producers in Indonesia, including April's sister companies Apical and Asian Agri, agreed to work towards ending deforestation.