Paper conglomerate commits to restoring one million hectares of rainforest

The plan is slated to protect crucial Orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo.

The plan is slated to protect crucial Orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo. Creative Commons: Austronesian Expeditions, 2013

Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP), long a target of environmental advocates, has taken a critical step toward cleaning up its image—and operations—in the island nation of Indonesia.

The company has announced a plan to support the restoration and conservation of one million hectares of rainforest over nine priority regions in the country. To forge the agreement, APP worked closely with a handful of Indonesian and international stakeholders, including Greenpeace, the Forest Trust, and Ekologia.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has been one of the paper giant’s staunchest critics, cautiously heralded the announcement.

Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme, said his organization was “encouraged by this announcement and [looks] forward to working with APP and other stakeholders to figure out the details of where and how forests will be restored and conserved.” However, as Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s Forest Commodities Market Transformation Program Leader, said, “abandoning deforestation after the damage is done cannot be all that it takes to be considered a responsible player.”

APP’s restoration commitment represents a major escalation of its forest conservation policy, which was established a year ago February. The zero deforestation policy includes safeguards that exclude timber sourced via conversion of peatlands and rainforests as well as protections for local communities, including embracing the concept of free, prior informed consent (FPIC) in new plantation development. APP is also investing heavily in stakeholder engagement, inviting supporters and critics alike to provide feedback and report breaches of its policy.

WWF’s tacit support of the restoration pledge reveals the extent of this engagement. It was only last month that WWF issued a brief to paper buyers warning them to wait to resume doing business with APP. While WWF isn’t yet recommending APP products, the conservation giant’s language has noticeably softened with the restoration announcement.

Read more: Mongabay>>

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