How Asia Pulp and Paper Supports Indonesia’s SDGs

A subset of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) works tirelessly to churn out analytical inputs for intergovernmental deliberations on sustainable development through its science-policy interface. One of the core outputs from the DSDG is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), where respective UN members collaborate with the organization to determine key national objectives and tailor local, regional, and international strategies necessary towards achieving them.

In the case of Indonesia’s SDGs, the priorities of the Southeast Asian archipelagic country were made abundantly clear in 2021. Dealing with the aftermath and continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia has faced multiple challenges in achieving her SDGs. While the 273.5 million people strong Republic has made massive strides in social spending and policy reform, the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a spike in poverty in women and elderly in rural areas, as well as mounting pressure on Indonesia’s health system resulting from massive infection numbers.

As highlighted in the UN’s 2021 Voluntary National Review of Indonesia’s SDGs progress, more still needs to be done to bridge these new and emerging gaps, move towards sustainable COVID-19 recovery, encourage investment in a green economy, and shore up the country’s disaster resilience.

While Indonesia’s multi-faceted approach towards the SDGs spans a wealth of categories and relies heavily on sustainability and developing a circular economy, the need for greater local and international cooperation is self-evident to help the country achieve its goals. The role of local stakeholders is more important than ever as local corporations and organizations are in the best position to provide for and support communities within their sphere of influence.

One Indonesian company that has made significant contributions towards advancing Indonesia’s SDGs progress is Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Sinar Mas, with their Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA) program. We take a look at the DMPA and how it exemplifies the ways corporations and businesses can contribute to fulfilling Indonesia’s SDGs.

Introducing DMPA, a sustainability-driven policy

High on the list of Indonesia’s SDG priorities stated by the UN is “Life on Land”, involving the protection, restoration, and promotion of terrestrial ecosystems. With actionable plans to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt land degradation, this SDG sees forests as a crucial and necessary resource for the prosperity of biodiversity and life on Earth.

This is where programs such as Asia Pulp and Paper’s Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA) truly shine. Understanding that communities play an important role in forest conservation, DMPA leverages on the idea of Integrated Forestry and Farming (first introduced in 2015) to work towards the goal of improving the welfare of communities living in and around forest areas.

By engaging with local communities to work together to protect the environment, this flagship program ultimately reduces the risks of illegal logging, forest fires, and potential land disputes. This participatory approach also lessens the pressure on forest land by providing alternative and sustainable livelihoods for communities living in and around forest areas, thereby encouraging a sense of communal ownership via improving the capacity of the village-owned institutions to ensure the sustainability of the program.

With the original goal of roping in 500 villages across five regions (Riau, Jambi, South Sumatera, and West and East Kalimantan) by the end of 2020, DMPA has now reached 386 villages with potential beneficiaries of more than 31,000 households. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic proving to be an obstacle in approaching and coordinating with new village candidates, the program has succeeded in strengthening the ties between participating villages, especially within those that see higher risks of land and forest fires.

As a program with community empowerment as its number one goal, DMPA was designed for long-term and sustainable livelihood improvements. Built off the four tenets of Charity, Infrastructure, Capacity Building, and Community Empowerment, it is clear to see how DMPA aligns side by side with Indonesia’s SDGs.

How DMPA supports Indonesia’s SDGs

1. Aiming To Eliminate Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic threatened the livelihood of individuals worldwide, and in Indonesia, that was no different. Thankfully, a significant number of DMPA program participants were able to maintain their business and income through collaborative efforts. Activities such as honey cultivation, herbal drinks, and agricultural development of fruits and vegetables became core income segments for many of Asia Pulp and Paper’s partnering villages at a time when rural and agricultural communities worldwide were struggling.

Reinforcing the ideas of Capacity Building and Community empowerment, DMPA further supported program participants during the pandemic through routine webinars in collaboration with industry partners, where each and every one of the program’s participants learned vital skills for the 21st-century digital marketplace. As the company looks forward to the future, it’s safe to say that the program is focused on widening access to the market for DMPA products while diversifying and supporting micro, small, and medium businesses partnered with Asia Pulp and Paper.

2. Empowering Women

Gender equality, a topic highlighted as one of the top five SDGs in Indonesia, pushes for equal opportunities for all women and girls in the region. Asia Pulp and Paper, through DMPA, actively works to formally empower women in rural areas around its suppliers and mill operations.

Facilitated by the Indonesia Global Compact Network, these initiatives train participants to identify and process valuable local herbs, enabling opportunities for micro-entrepreneurship and alternative livelihoods for women and their families. To date, more than 7,500 women in DMPA programs have received training and scholarships for beauty therapy, herbal drinks, and financial management across the group.

Other steps taken to empower women in the program include e-commerce workshops, which teach participants basic knowledge of the online marketplace, providing them with basic techniques of photography and copywriting to boost product sales. Mentorship programs are also commonplace, where guests are invited to provide education on product innovation and developing business models.

3. Land Dispute Resolution

The conservation of forests remains a high priority under DMPA, and Asia Pulp and Paper is committed to the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for indigenous and local communities on any proposed development or forest management activities in existing areas.

Forests are at the highest risk of clearance when ownership or tenure is contested – leading to Asia Pulp and Paper (in conjunction with Earthworm Foundation) conducting land dispute mapping on its pulpwood suppliers’ concession areas across Indonesia to allow for productive land dispute resolutions.

Through careful mediation and conflict resolution, 55% of land disputes observed through DMPA were resolved by the end of 2020, reflecting steady growth in sustainable practices and conservation. Asia Pulp and Paper’s community-based approach also recognises the nuances involved in such situations and the complex village politics at play – a key element to ensuring sustainable and responsible operations in dispute and conflict resolution.

Ensuring Community-Focused Reforestation and Sustainability Initiatives

Integrated and holistic programs like DMPA are vital for achieving Indonesia’s SDGs. Stakeholders on every level must actively approach problem-solving together, and invest in collaborative as well as groundbreaking strategies that genuinely take the interests of smaller communities into consideration. On a brighter note, there are several companies in Indonesia already undertaking green and sustainable practices to help hit the SDGs, the least of which includes Asia Pulp and Paper.

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