Building A Feasible Long-Term Sustainable Development Strategy
As the global climate crisis continues to worsen, companies and organisations around the world are recognising that sustainability is more than just a buzzword. While sustainable or eco-conscious development was previously considered a small part of a business’ overall strategy, more companies are now aware that a sustainable business development plan is the only key to the long-term success of their endeavours. Sustainability goals are now being interwoven into every stage of a business, from the production line to the moment a customer receives the product.
One way to ensure that your organisation’s long-term sustainability plan is feasible is by crafting it in relation to sustainability goals or outcomes defined by trusted experts in the field. One such set of goals that many companies often turn to is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were first outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The goals, policies, or strategies outlined by the SDGs can thus act as a benchmark against which positive changes and initiatives by an organisation are developed, implemented, and assessed.
Comprising 17 unique SDGs, each with their own series of sub-goals and incremental objectives, the SDGs framework can be easily applied across a wide variety of industries. The overall action plan aims to tackle some of the most pressing consequences of climate change including preservation of forests and oceans, taking proactive action to stop or reserve climate change, promoting ethical work and economic growth, and enabling responsible consumption and production of resources. The SDGs also address important facets of community development like achieving gender equality, uplifting marginalised communities, and working to emancipate women and young girls worldwide.
Many companies operating in the primary sector, such as pulp and paper companies, are already under greater scrutiny due to their interaction with primary resources and the environment. For this reason, it is essential that businesses in such industries proactively and meaningfully adopt sustainable development and business models that look after people and the planet.
Some companies such as Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Sinar Mas have already taken huge steps towards integrating SDGs into their business policies, and other pulp and paper companies can look to them as an example when crafting their own sustainability initiatives.
Key SDGs for the Pulp and Paper Industry
Although the SDG framework is meant to be universally applicable, some of the goals are particularly salient to the pulp and paper industry. These may include:
- Goal 8: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”
- Goal 10: “Reduce inequality within and among countries”
- Goal 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”
- Goal 13: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”
- Goal 15: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”
One glance at these SDGs makes it clear that a single policy change would be insufficient in tackling the wide variety of concerns; rather a comprehensive plan and series of differentiated interventions or initiatives are needed to fully comprehend and tackle all the above and more. This can range from fair remuneration of workers and ensuring safe working conditions (Goal 8) to building mechanisms for land disputes that prioritise the concerns of indigenous villages (Goal 10) to seeking out sustainable energy sources (Goal 13) to responsible sourcing of forests (Goal 15).
Businesses should also look beyond production-related sustainability goals to see how their internal and external Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives can affect positive long-term change in the world around them. SDGs 4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” are two such SDGs that can be easily contributed towards even if they aren’t directly relevant to business operations.
Asia Pulp and Paper’s Sustainability Roadmap: Vision (SRV) 2020 and follow-up Sustainability Roadmap: Vision (SRV) 2030 are just two such examples that other companies in the pulp and paper industry (or beyond) can follow as an example of incorporating SDGs into an overall business strategy without coming at the expense of profits.
Pulp and paper companies hoping to improve their long-term sustainability goals can also consider further examination of the following initiatives implemented by Asia Pulp & Paper.
Forest Conservation Policy
Having a forest conservation policy is essential for sustainably-minded pulp and paper businesses across the Asia-Pacific.
Asia Pulp and Paper’s Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) is one such policy that was crafted in partnership with the organisation’s partners and stakeholders, while still being open to change according to best practices. The FCP can be broken down into several specific goals including only developing non-forested areas determined by High Conservation Values (HCV) or High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessments, fostering traceable relationships with responsible third-party suppliers, and adhering to principles examining the organisation’s social and community engagement with surrounding villages.
These initiatives are further supported by the Integrated Sustainable Forest Management Plan (ISFMP); each Asia Pulp & Paper supplier is required to produce an ISFMP to ensure that the FCP is being implemented on an organisation-wide basis.
Companies who intend to implement something similar to the ISFMP should also take into account pertinent issues such as land rights, harvesting best practices, and responsible forest management to ensure that the results are in line with broader sustainability objectives.
Carbon Footprint Regulations
Another area where pulp and paper organisations can make a huge impact is through carbon emissions monitoring. Maximising energy efficiency through the use of renewable fuel sources, reduction of fossil fuel usage, and monitoring water usage are all key to decreasing the overall carbon footprint of the production process. As regulations and taxes around carbon emission become a global norm, jumping on the renewable fuel bandwagon will also future-proof your organisation against any future policy developments.
As part of their SRV 2030, Asia Pulp and Paper has dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint by 30% by both reducing the carbon output of their production line and researching innovative products across their various product lines. To date, 59% of their energy needs are derived from renewable fuels and their carbon Intensity has decreased by 29% compared to the 2012 baseline.
Community Development Projects
Apart from production-focused policies, pulp and paper companies should also take community development into consideration when crafting their sustainability goals and strategies: Does the business create local jobs? What are the conflict-resolution mechanisms in play for resolving disputes over land? How can the organisation help uplift marginalised or indigenous communities in and around their concession areas?
One way businesses are integrating themselves into local communities is through actioned projects that listen to and fulfill specific local needs. Investing in human capital can encourage a harmonious relationship between groups and, as a bonus, is an investment in the future of a company.
One such community development programme pioneered by Asia Pulp and Paper is Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA). DMPA seeks to give forest communities around Asia Pulp & Paper’s concession areas access to alternative livelihood sources and sources of income. In addition to improving and future-proofing the villages’ economic prospects, this also deters them from relying on harmful methods like slash-and-burn agriculture – resulting in an additional boon for local forests.
In order for community development programmes to be successful, they should engage with local communities, identify and learn about their needs, and work towards projects that benefit those communities. This ensures that the programmes actually uplift the people they aim to target, resulting in tangible benefits for the community in the long run.
Sustainability is the Only Option
Where sustainable development was once a trend for organisations to opt into, it is now a necessity for their continued growth. As the world moves closer towards 2030, many individuals and organisations are re-examining global progress towards the SDGs, and are recognising the power of the SDGs as a way to pressure organisations into implementing sustainable policies and practices that work with and towards the future of the earth and humanity.
Sustainability should be something your business is excited about and can see the genuine worth in; beyond simply making consumers, clients, investors, and stakeholders happy, sustainable policies go a long way in ensuring your employees also feel a renewed sense of responsibility. By implementing sustainable development practices, pulp and paper companies such as Asia Pulp and Paper are future-proofing themselves against resource shortages, supply chain disruptions, land conflicts, and even employee dissatisfaction – ensuring the long-term longevity of the organisation itself.
As stakeholders and consumers increasingly prefer sustainability-driven businesses, getting on board with the SDGs and crafting your own sustainability strategy can become one of the smartest business moves your organisation ever makes.
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