The Institute for the Study of Corporate Social Responsibility at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto held a panel discussion last week exploring the challenges and best practices regarding forest sustainability in Indonesia. Using Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) as an example of a company that has turned around its reputation in recent years, the panel explored the importance of certification and of collaboration between companies and NGOs to build effective sustainability policies. Participants included: Ian Lifshitz, North American Director of Sustainability and Public Affairs for Asia Pulp & Paper Group; Shane Moffatt, Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace; and James Sullivan, certification and accreditation expert and founding chair of the Forest Stewardship Council Canada. Key take-aways from the discussion:

  • Indonesia presents a number of challenges to ensuring sustainable practices. The country is fractured geographically (it’s comprised of more than 17,000 islands) and companies must contend with competing interests from a variety of groups when negotiating land use. For example, the national government may have a certain interest in the land that may differ from the regional government or even the people who live on it. Village elders may have a competing viewpoint from their own community. Negotiations usually tend to be a delicate balancing act that take into consideration social, economic, environmental and political factors.

The APP story highlighted the importance of engaging stakeholders, even adversarial ones, in building forest sustainability policies. The company collaborated with NGOs, including Greenpeace, who were able to provide unique insights into issues and sensitivities the policies needed to address. Stakeholder collaboration helped inform APP’s Forest Conservation Policy that outlined commitments to a moratorium on forest clearances, protection of peatland, implementation of FPIC and social principles, and developing measures for sustainable sourcing from third-party suppliers.

  • Forestry certification was discussed as an important element in ensuring sustainable practices and in meeting consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products. However, as only 10% of the world’s forests are certified, more needs to be done to convince companies to apply for certification.
  • Ultimately, sustainability is a journey that definitely cannot be done alone. Collaboration is crucial for success.