Good quality and low prices were once the goal of any business hoping to attract customers but, in today’s world, this is no longer enough. Consumer attitudes have changed and people now demand ethically sourced products that have not negatively affected our environment or local communities.
Sustainability throughout the supply chain has become critical to business success. If businesses want to keep their customers, they need to adopt the same shift in perspective; to create a sustainable and well managed supply chain will help maintain a sustainable customer base.
Within the paper industry this requires the sustainable management of forests and the implementation of an effective zero deforestation policy. This goes beyond turning off chainsaws and bulldozers and ensuring that supply chains are free of natural fibre. It also means engaging and consulting with local communities and adopting a multi-stakeholder approach by involving environmental NGOs and civil society groups.
The social aspect of zero deforestation is one that spans the whole supply chain. It starts in the communities materials are sourced from, and goes all the way to the individual consumers purchasing the finished product. Companies must work more closely with these communities to better understand the specific challenges they face and help to address them, for example by implementing free prior informed consent (FPIC).
Zero deforestation is not something that can be achieved without seeking external input. Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), the company I work for, implemented its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in February 2013, which saw an immediate end to deforestation across its entire supply chain, and throughout this process the input from our partners - third-party experts and NGOs – has enabled us to refine and improve this process and ensure we are achieving the ambitious targets we set ourselves.
Earlier this month, I am pleased to say we reached the 18 month anniversary of the FCP, and the moratorium we placed on forest clearance still stands. In April this year, we made a groundbreaking commitment to support the protection and restoration of one million hectares of forest across Indonesia, a process which is dependent upon engagement with NGOs, customers and stakeholders alike.
Of course implementing a zero deforestation policy comes at a high financial price but it is one that is worth paying. APP encourages all businesses to follow the lead of brands such as Mars, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive and adopt transparent zero deforestation procurement policies that protect and enhance natural resources as well as neighbouring communities.
By demanding this of suppliers they will enforce real change throughout the supply chain while also securing a future for their business by meeting the ethical demands of today’s consumer.
☛ Lee Henderson is European director of sustainability and stakeholder engagement at Asia Pulp and Paper.