By Sara Santiago
An area of natural forest in Riau Province, Indonesia
In the past two years, we’ve seen rapid changes in the forestry sector that we could not have predicted would be realized by 2014. As a starting point, we witnessed the chairman of Indonesia-based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), the world’s second largest pulp and paper producer, announce a groundbreaking Forest Conservation Policy on Feb. 5, 2013, committing to an immediate moratorium on rainforest clearing for its pulp and paper products. This announcement, met with considerable and warranted skepticism, actually set the stage for a new reality for Southeast Asian rainforests. Since February 2013, APP, along with NGOs, brands, and advisers, has strived to uphold that commitment.
Astoundingly, by the end of 2013, the world’s largest palm oil producer and trader, Wilmar, quietly took the zero-deforestation commitment to the next level, by ensuring 45 percent of the world’s palm oil would be produced with zero-deforestation, zero-peatland and zero-social conflict. Unilever took the lead in supporting this policy. By the eve of 2014, commitments from two foremost, global suppliers redefined the mainstream, altering the way brands regard forests.
What has followed the major policy shifts by these two giants is a domino effect, with multiple brands following suit in the first months of 2014. It appeared as though a new U.S.-based brand fell into line on a weekly basis, following the model of their suppliers. GAR, a sister company to APP, suddenly re-entered the scene, by extending its existing Forest Conservation Policy to cover its suppliers, thus with Wilmar, over 50 percent of the world’s palm oil is bound by zero-deforestation commitments. Similarly, brands like Colgate-Palmolive, Mars and Ferrero announced their own zero-deforestation commitments. And most recently, Procter and Gamble and palm oil trader Cargill committed to zero deforestation and tracing palm oil in their supply chains. Click to continue reading »
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