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APP plans global campaign to push ‘zero deforestation’ policy next year

Image: asiapulppaper.com

Image: asiapulppaper.com

Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the world’s largest paper companies, is to launch a global campaign to communicate its green positioning to consumers next year, the company’s sustainability chief told Mumbrella in Jakarta today.

Aida Greenbury, the managing director of sustainability and stakeholder engagement for the Sinar Mas-owned giant, said today that she is working on a strategy to tell the world about APP’s “zero deforestation” policy, which was implemented in early 2013 after years of sustained pressure from NGOs led by Greenpeace.

“For the first two years since introducing the zero deforestation policy we’ve not been focusing on reaching the masses, rather those closely linked to sustainability issues. We figured that if we can make those stakeholders understand what we’re doing, then the word will spread out.”

“But how to communicate this message to the John Does on the street? We will have to make the message simple and easy to understand,” she said.

APP will begin to target consumers at the “laymen level” next year, Greenbury said: “We want to humanise what we have to say around high conservation values and high carbon stock and make it less technical. We’re still developing the strategy, so I can’t say much more than that.”

The global campaign will carry an “umbrella message” but will be tailored locally. “What is communicated in Australia will be totally different to what we say in Japan,” she said.

Some green groups such as Greenpeace have welcomed APP’s pledge to stop clearing areas of indigenous rainforest in Indonesia, while others such as WWF have been more sceptical that the firm will hold true to its word.

Mumbrella published an opinion piece in February that took issue with APP’s claims to be an industry leader in environmental sustainability, wondering if its calls for “NGOs, governments and businesses to collaborate to protect Indonesia’s forests” were little more than greenwash.

Greenpeace campaign targeting Mattel for dealing with APP

Greenpeace campaign targeting Mattel for dealing with APP

In response to Mumbrella’s question about whether APP’s campaign to improve its image has been working, Greenbury said: “We’re getting there. On a scale of one to 10 of confidence in what we’re doing, I would say we’re at level six.”

“We’re introducing something totally new, full of innovations such as setting benchmarks for zero deforestation. This will take time, and those who are not close to the issue are still trying to grapple with what it all means.”

APP’s zero deforestation policy has had a positive impact on the company’s bottom line, Greenbury says, which had been hurting in the years before its introduction, as many of the firms it supplied had bowed to pressure from green groups and cancelled their contracts. Companies such as Nestle and Staples have started working with APP again, and others have followed.

However, Greenpeace has cautioned any company that says it will resume trade with APP “must apply strict conditions to commercial contracts requiring continued progress be made against the policy and the outstanding policy issues in Greenpeace’s review.”

Aida Greenbury's Twitter profile pic

Aida Greenbury’s Twitter profile pic

Greenbury has been increasingly vocal in social media and at conferences about conservation, with one green group suggesting that her behaviour is more akin to an NGO’s than the face of a logging giant.

APP works with PR agencies such as Cohn & Wolfe and PPR to defend its corporate image, and mainly WPP agencies to promote its products, which include Livi toilet roll and Paseo tissue paper. APP’s existing agencies will be used for the campaign next year, Greenbury says.

Greenbury reasserted that it will take time for sceptics to believe in APP’s story.

“I don’t like to see it as a story, it’s a journey,” she told Mumbrella. “It’s about taking people with us, and making them believe in our journey.”

“Our policy is about blatant honesty and transparency – which no one else in the forestry industry is doing,” she said. “It’s the only way to make our journey believable.”

A full interview with Greenbury is to run on Mumbrella next year.

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