Jakarta. Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings, or APRIL, a global producer of fiber, pulp and paper, believes that its $100 million investment plan for natural forest conservation is imperative for their future business, executives at the company said.
APRIL’s commitment involves 250 thousand hectares of high conservation value forests (HCVF) located within their fiber plantations and a 150 thousand hectares landscape level ecosystem restoration project.
The project was announced in early December 2015 at the UN Climate Change Summit (COP 21) in Paris. APRIL’s 10-year investment plan, which is part of their sustainable forestry model, will not only protect and enhance their HCVF, but will also ensure that its peatland restoration activities at the Kampar Peninsula use an integrated management approach with local communities.
At last year’s COP 21, representatives from over 190 countries discussed their aim to achieve universal and legally binding targets to mitigate climate change and global warming.
“The global community has an extraordinary opportunity at COP 21 in Paris to make a difference for the future. This investment indicates our broader business case for restoration which encompasses the value of the ecosystem services and the need to have an inclusive approach with the community,” said Anderson Tanoto, a director at APRIL’s parent company, Royal Golden Eagle, in a statement.
“As we learn and as our approach [evolves], we continue to deliver environmental benefits, economic opportunities through jobs and infrastructure, as well as social progress for local communities,” Anderson added.
Since APRIL began its fiber plantation program in 1993, they have been identifying and setting aside natural forest conservation areas within their concession areas. They have been doing so in accordance with legal requirements, as well as complying with standards using the HCVF approach since 2005.
In a recent statement, APRIL said that its commitment to its Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) – which is a long-term project initiated in 2013 with an aim to restore the important peatland landscape on the Kampar Peninsula – as the biggest investment by a private sector company in a single eco-restoration project in Indonesia.
As the eco-system restoration and conservation program is centrally located in the peninsula, APRIL says it will bring economic benefits since it will not only preserve the remaining forests, but will also help to stabilize and improve the livelihood of the local community. It will do so by providing continued earnings from non-timber forest products and ecosystem services, as well as reduce fire risks in the surrounding area and help preserve water flow that will feed local rivers.
“This commitment illustrates how private sector organizations can support climate goals not just in terms of pledges but by going beyond them and actually putting resources on the table,” said Tony Wenas, managing director at APRIL Indonesia.
APRIL’s RER area operates under the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s ecosystem restoration license. APRIL is also collaborating with environmental experts, consisting of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and local social capital organization Bidara to provide technical and advisory expertise on carbon, community development and biodiversity.
Indonesia’s lowland forests and peatland areas are known as some of the most bio-diverse and sensitive ecosystems in the world, while the Kampar Peninsula landscape is identified as one of the largest peatland forest blocks remaining in the Southeast Asian region.
Kampar’s tropical forests are known for its richness in biodiversity and are home to an array of endangered species, including the Sumatran tiger, bearded pig and sun bear.
“Under the eco-restoration license from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, we are working with our partners to protect, assess, restore and then manage this important landscape while working with the local community,” said Petrus Gunarso, conservation director, at APRIL.
Strong Business Case
It was not a small commitment for APRIL to boost its investment in the RER project, which started with a $17 million commitment three years ago that initially was intended to cover 70 thousand hectares of degraded land.
“As well as the environmental imperatives, we believe there is a strong business case for peatland conservation and restoration as part of a sustainable forestry model,” Petrus said, adding that the RER project is also expected to combat deforestation, in addition to restoring the ecosystem through water, oxygen and wildlife.
Apart from these commitments, APRIL also manages a 250 thousand hectare conservation area within the fiber plantation concession. APRIL also operates a 1,750 hectare manufacturing complex in Kerinci, which is one of the largest single-site pulp mills in the world that is able to produce about 2.8 million tons of pulp and 820 thousand tons of paper per year.
Additionally, its PaperOne line of office paper product now sells in more than 75 countries.
APRIL also held a ground-breaking ceremony for a new Rp 4 trillion ($305 million) paper production facility in June last year in Riau province that will produce high-grade digital paper, designed for high-quality digital color printing.
This move is expected to boost APRIL’s production capacity to 1.15 million tons of paper per year from its current 820 thousand tons per year.
APRIL further displayed its commitment to environmental conservation by revising its Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP) in May 2015, which meant revising their plans to harvest an all natural forest.
Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) witnessed the ceremony where APRIL inked its commitment in June last year. This move was welcomed by international green activists as it demonstrated an improved commitment from APRIL’s previous SFMP which allowed for timber from rainforests to be used in the company’s pulp mills until 2020.
APRIL also stated in their SFMP that they are on-track to achieving a 1-for-1 commitment to conserve forest areas that are equal in size to its 480 thousand hectares of plantation area.
Additionally, Anderson has repeatedly told the media that APRIL has now entered a different stage of development as it seeks to improve its image which has long been criticized by green activists as a contributor to large-scale deforestation.
“It’s a different stage for the company. Over the last five years, we’ve asked ourselves what went right and what haven’t we done right,” said Anderson, as quoted by the Straits Times in December last year.
Anderson added that the company admits that they may not have been “perfect,” but it was reason enough to think outside the box and gather expertise from outside the company to improve its sustainable business model in the pulp and paper industry.