In a move to placate environmentalists, the world's third largest paper company has said it will stop its suppliers from cutting down natural forests in Indonesia. Greenpeace and the Forest Trust helped plan the action.
Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) said on Tuesday that it would end the "clearing of natural forest" across its entire supply chain, with immediate effect and pledged to work to preserve "high conservation value" and "high-carbon stock" forests.
The company said it hopes the action will help preserve the threatened habitats of rare animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions released from carbon-rich peatland.
APP initially scheduled the plan to start in 2015. But it had been heavily pressured by environmental groups to change its practices, primarily to stop cutting down forests in order to make way for plantations.
Fifty years ago, more than three-quarters of Indonesia was covered in tropical rain forest. But half of the trees have since disappeared. Several global brands, including Adidas, Hasbro and Nestle, had stopped buying packaging products from APP following pressure from Greenpeace.
"If APP fully implements its new policies, it will mark a dramatic change in direction, after years of deforestation in Indonesia," Greenpeace forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said.
The Indonesian company worked with environmental groups Greenpeace and the Forest Trust to draw up the plan, saying that it went into effect on February 1. It relies solely on farmed trees grown on plantations and also includes monitoring by outside groups.
"This is a major commitment and investment from APP Group," APP chairman Teguh Ganda Wijaya said in a statement. "We are doing this for the sustainability of our business and for the benefit of society."
Scott Poynton, The Forest Trust executive director commented: "If one of the world's largest paper producers can identify a way to clean up the complex social and environmental issues that plague its supply chain, then others can do so too."
Poynton said he hoped the new APP project would mark the start of a "global push to address the most destructive drivers of deforestation worldwide."
Attention may now turn to Asia Pacific Resources International, the second biggest pulp and paper producer in Indonesia. It has not yet made a pledge against deforestation. Greenpeace has written to the company, asking for its plans.
jm/msh (AP, dpa)