Sustainable forest commitments to be tested
Sudibyo M. Wiradji
The Jakarta Post
The awarding of PEFC/IFCC certification to forestry companies has been seen by many as a step forward but the demand to implement sustainable forest management policies is getting stronger.
Forestry companies' strong commitment to sustainable forest management bodes well for the future of Indonesia's sustainably produced forestry products but their policy will be tested on the ground.
Enhanced sustainable forest management policy by forestry companies was marked by the awarding of PEFC/IFF certification to the country's two giant forestry companies, APRIL Group and APP in Jakarta.
Both APRIL Group and APP have joined representatives from the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the world's forest certification system, and its Indonesian partner, the Indonesian Forest Certification Co-Operation (IFCC).
The PEFC/IFCC certified plantation forest covers some 610,000 ha and it is to be increased in stages.
The voluntary PEFC/IFCC certification has been seen by many as a 'passport' for the companies to allow their products to enter countries that set sustainable forest management preconditions.
'With the issuance of PEFC/IFCC certification, sustainable forest management [SFM] in Indonesia will be achieved,' Dradjad H. Wibowo, IFCC chairman, told journalist prior to the PEFC/IFCC presentation ceremony.
Indonesia has long been struggling to penetrate countries, especially in Western Europe and North America, in regard to the export of forest-sourced products as the country has been accused of not managing forests in a sustainable manner and also of failing to curb illegal logging and trade.
'These accusations posed a threat to exports, job creation, tax-based revenues, etc. Failure to conduct SFM will pose a high risk,' he said.
Blood, sweat, and tears
APP's managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury revealed the unhealthy situation facing Indonesia related to the global pulp and paper business due to negative campaigning on Indonesia's forestry products.
'Indonesia has been excluded from international trade [related to forestry products] for quite a long time because we are not PEFC/IFCC certified. That's why we have been struggling, with blood, sweat and tears, to help as much as we can to advance Indonesia's forestry products,' she said.
Indonesia's potential pulp and paper exports stand at around Rp 65 trillion(US$ 5 billion) per year and 'if we fail to show certification, we may lose between Rp 15 and Rp 20 trillion per year as several countries require the PEFC/IFCC certified products,' Dradjad warned.
He emphasized the credibility of IFCC certification, saying that IFCC certification was a national standard certification, formally recognized by the PEFC on Oct.1, 2014. 'It will be effective until Oct. 1, 2019 and is subject to evaluation every five years,' he said.
The certification has been prepared openly and transparently by 'engaging all major elements of stakeholders set in Agenda 21, the United Nations Conference (UNCED) 1992, namely (1) central government and regions; (2) forest owners; (3) business players; (4) workers and workers unions; (5) indigenous communities; (6) children and teenagers; (7) women; (8) scholars; and (9) NGOs/CSOs.'
He added that the certification applied for three years and was subject to periodic review and evaluation. 'It will be revoked if violations are made,' he warned.
'The IFCC invites all stakeholders to jointly monitor and maintain IFCC standards so as to serve as credible tools in achieving SFM,' he said.
PEFC CEO and secretary general Ben Gunneberg disclosed that the PEFC accounts for two thirds of the forest worldwide that are certified under global forest product certification systems.
'PEFC certification allows consumers around the world to choose wood products sourced from plantations that have been independently verified as sustainably managed according to PEFC's sustainability benchmarks,' he said.
Most of the forest certification to date has occurred in Europe and North America. 'The addition of Indonesia to the 36 national forest certification systems means that more and more areas in Asia can be certified from now on.
'APP and APRIL are leading the way in Indonesia, and this event will encourage more countries to develop sustainable forest management systems in Southeast Asia. The certification will inspire other countries in Asia to build schemes and conduct certification processes. This year, attention is being paid to Indonesia. If Indonesia succeeds, then more countries in Asia will follow suit,' he said.
Gunneberg said that to date, the development of sustainable forest management certification in Asia had been slow compared to other parts of the world. 'Indonesia has helped achieve the 'tipping point' for mainstream certification,' he said.
To capitalize on this 'tipping point', 'we must continue to work together to ensure the seeds planted grow to fruition.'
APRIL Group Indonesia's managing director Tony Wenas said that achieving the PEFC/IFF certification was a long-term process but 'we have been doing SFM for quite some time, which helps us a lot in providing feedback to auditors and also checking in the field, data and so forth.'
To ensure the monitoring, APRIL Group has established the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) of independent experts that will oversee the implementation of APRIL's SFMP.
APRIL's enhanced sustainability policy is the result of considerable stakeholder engagement including inputs from Greenpeace and WWF.
'The expanded SFMP is an encouraging signal of APRIL Group's intention to contribute to the long term sustainability of forest in Indonesia,' said WWF Indonesia CEO Efransjah.
'As a member of APRIL Group's SAC, we will continue to give inputs as well as monitoring implementation with other civil society groups to ensure APRIL delivers on its commitments.'
Greenpeace has also shown support for APRIL's SFMP.
'I believe that 100 percent of timber that APRIL will use is plantation timber. I think that's the key point,' said Greenpeace Forest Campaign Head Bustar Maitar.
'We welcome the policy and we will see strong implementation on the ground and we'll keep our eyes open to see the implementation on the ground, working hand in hand with the company to make it real,' he said.
Meanwhile, Vanda Mutia Dewi, executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, a policy development institute, said that consumers' growing demand for sustainably produced forestry products should be seen as serving as a positive incentive for companies able to comply with the prerequisites for forestry sustainability.
'Sustainably produced forestry products have their own market segmentation. So, certification for sustainably produced forestry products is a must for forestry companies,' she said.
Sustainability policies that each company has signed up to reassure consumers and the public should not only relate to legality and sustainability prerequisites but also the production process and management. 'The demand for the forestry companies' commitment to this has also been on the rise,' she said.
'And moreover, the companies should ensure that the sustainably produced forestry products should be across their supply chain, meaning that they do not want to receive products whose raw production materials are sourced from deforestation,' she noted.
Vanda expressed concern over the violations that big pulp and paper companies have committed in their own sustainability policies.
'Violations related to deforestation still frequently occurs as if there was no difference before and after the commitments are announced,' she said, adding, 'So it can be said that they are ready [for sustainable forest management] on paper, but are they ready to implement it on the ground? This remains a basic question.'
'What is important to note here is monitoring spatially and checks on the ground, how the commitments made by the companies are implemented and realized on the ground,' she said.
Forestry companies should take advantage of the results of the monitoring by civil society, which they can use as inputs 'for the process of due diligence on their suppliers, whether they comply with their own sustainability policy,' Vanda added.
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