It’s truly an exciting time to be a part of the holistic sustainability movement that is happening globally and across governments, consumers, NGOs and from my perspective, industry. I liken sustainability like technology. It’s moving in fast forward – so quick in fact that many of us are constantly trying to catch up – and that’s a great thing.
This example was on display at the Innovation Forum’s yearly gathering in my adopted hometown, Washington, DC. Last year we were talking the importance of sustainability policies and going beyond certifications. This year, the conversation turned to communities, farmers, smallholders and the people who live, work and go to school in small villages surrounding all important natural capital like the jungles, rainforests, rivers and the bush — well outside of large cities and towns which many of us are used to living and working.
Specifically, we were assembled to focus on how businesses can engage smallholder farmers. This included basics such as communication with the community to more complicated issues as latest techniques and technologies, farming best practices, and the creation of channels for distribution.
I was proud to share Asia Pulp & Paper’s committed work in this area which includes fire mitigation education, agro-forestry techniques, including inter-cropping, irrigation and new farming methods, but was most exciting to talk about was not only growing the crop, but distributing it.
APP has partnered with one of our existing customers in Europe to purchase coffee from local farmers and another customer in Japan who will purchase the fruit grown on these farms and prepare these items for sale with APP packaging.
It’s these examples which prove it takes a village to better the lives of these communities which are so critical to our environment.
They need less government bureaucracy and red tape, they need global banks to de-risk climate finance and provide investments in these projects, they need NGO’s and nonprofits, like Belantara to provide on-the-ground support and they need more companies like APP to provide the overall support mechanism and sales channels to push the products out to consumers.
This leads me to one of the most important points of all – they need consumers globally to demand corporate sustainability policies include not only protection of forest and wildlife, but also the communities and individuals living and working in these areas who are many times the first defense in protection of our valuable natural capital.