Asean and the global sustainability agenda
October-December 2016
By: Lucita Jasmin

Third, there is growing recognition of the interconnectedness of sustainability challenges and green economy principles. To deliver a positive future for the region and the world, more and more companies and governments are embracing the need to deliver on goals related to energy, water, food, forests, carbon and poverty alleviation in totality, each of which is a sustainability challenge and an economic opportunity. These are embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals.

As common objectives have emerged, companies, consumers, governments and civil society have become more empowered to take a big-picture view – a landscape approach to creating a better and more sustainable future. That big-picture view can drive clearer action and initiatives on the ground. By design, this means the Asean sustainability agenda is built from the ground up, rather than being imposed from above. 

Of course, there’s still a long way to go in the forestry sector. We must all do four things well in the long term. We must continue to grow and prosper as businesses, through improved production methods and greater value add. Growth in yields, revenues and sustained profits underwrite our ability to protect forests, and generate prosperity and progress for the country and communities. Many companies, including APRIL, have made impressive commitments, but we have to keep delivering and being seen to do so if we want to maintain the trust of our customers and civil society. We have seen what happens when companies betray that trust.

We must better understand carbon emissions from large-scale plantation operations, particularly on peatland, and continue to improve science and best practices so emissions are minimized and peatlands are protected.

Last, we must drive wider and deeper engagement beyond our own operations, engaging with experts and nongovernmental organizations, supporting government efforts, encouraging and educating our suppliers, others in the industry and the community on better practices. Asean’s sustainability agenda is a work in progress, but there is enough progress to warrant optimism and enough momentum to believe that progress will continue. While those looking from outside may remain unconvinced, those working on the inside will attest that a threshold has been passed, with an evolving compact between business and civil society providing reassurance that the days of a solely economic focus, without due commitment to a sustainable world, are rapidly passing into history.

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