APP, a member of the Sinar Mas Group, estimates that 20 percent of its Indonesian wood comes from native rain forests. The company said it has commissioned assessments to determine what areas in its concessions are natural forests, as opposed to areas that have been cleared.
As of Friday, the firm had pulled hundreds of excavators out of the forest and had hired a European nonprofit group called the Forest Trust, which negotiated the agreement, to independently monitor its operations.
Aida Greenbury, the firm’s managing director for sustainability, said that a coalition of environmentalists, customers and some of the firm’s employees had pushed for an end to native forest logging.
“We heard very loud and clear what they want us to do,” she said. “It is an investment for the sustainability of our business, not only an investment in the environment and the social impact we’re creating.”
The move shows how activists are increasingly focused on securing environmental commitments from corporate giants rather than governments, which can be slow to enact broad policy changes.
The World Wildlife Fund, for example, has worked with Coca-Cola to conserve water and with Wal-Mart to source beef and palm oil from areas that aren’t deforested. Greenpeace has targeted toymakers, candy companies and fast-food chains for purchasing supplies from firms with poor environmental records. And just last month, McDonald’s USA announced that it will sell only fish certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Carter Roberts, who heads the WWF in the United States, noted that 500 companies control 70 percent of the market for the 15 commodities “that have the greatest impact on the planet,” and 100 of them control 25 percent of that market.
“We target these 100 companies because we know if they change their practices, it will affect half of the markets in which they operate, and that will make a huge difference in conserving the places we care about,” Roberts said. “This is the fastest-growing part of our work, and it’s the place where we see the greatest traction.”
The Forest Trust’s executive director, Scott Poynton, who has helped broker similar no-deforestation pledges with Nestle and palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources during the past two years, said APP’s commitment sets out “a pretty clear template” that any business can follow.
APP, which produces 9 million tons of paper and pulp annually in Indonesia and operates two massive mills in Sumatra, accounts for half the country’s production. Its closest competitor, Indonesia’s Asia Pacific Resources International, also logs in natural rain forests. But its production is less than half of APP’s, so it has attracted less criticism.