RER’s Fifth Anniversary Celebrated at WBCSD Annual Meeting
Five years ago, Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) was established by APRIL to protect and restore important areas of peatland forest in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. In that time, the RER has embarked on a program to protect, assess, , restore and manage approximately 150,000 hectares of peatland forest on the Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island.
RER’s achievements during this time – from zero fire, zero encroachment and zero illegal logging to identifying and measuring a wide range of biodiversity, including rare and endangered species – were recognised during the recent annual meeting of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) held in Singapore.
Speaking at a reception hosted by APRIL to mark RER’s fifth anniversary and attended by more than 200 WBCSD delegates, APRIL Group Chairman and RER Advisory Board member, Bey Soo Khiang, explained the motivation behind the company’s support for the program: “We support this program because it is in line with our business philosophy that whatever we do must be good for the community, the country, the climate and our customers and only then will it be good for company.”
RER contributes to APRIL’s commitment to conserve one hectare of forest for every hectare of plantation and is made possible by 60-year eco-restoration licenses granted by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry. It also aligns APRIL’s conservation and landscape protection commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his remarks, Mr. Bey also paid tribute to the work carried out by APRIL’s partners, Fauna & Flora International, BIDARA and Laskar Alam. “RER teams go to great lengths to ensure that traditional community activities are protected and social and economic activity is not only supported but is sustainable. Our partners have been essential in establishing good working relationships with the communities in the area which is critical to the long term success of the program.”
Responsible Business Forum – Partnering for SDG Action
APRIL’s commitment to aligning its business operations to the SDGs was reiterated at the Responsible Business Forum, held recently in Singapore. Speaking at the event’s opening plenary entitled Shaping the world in 2030: Partnerships for SDG Action, Mr. Bey noted that the launch of the SDGs had provided the company with the means to measure the impact of its operations and guide future investment decisions accordingly.
Mr. Bey added: “With the launch of the goals in late 2015, we saw a golden opportunity to align our 5Cs with the SDGs. The advantage of the SDGs is that they help us address two key issues: whether we are meeting the needs of communities at a local level, and how we measure and report the impact of our operations. The SDGs provide us with a common language to achieve this.”
Mr. Bey noted that the work the company was doing to align with the SDGs work would enable it to compare its priority SDGs with those of the districts within Riau Province, where the company operates. “This will ensure that we’re all moving in the same direction. Ultimately, the SDGs are a global concept but we are working with stakeholders like the UNDP to ensure that intervention happens on the ground among communities.”
Also speaking at the Responsible Business Forum was Anthony Sebastian, Conservation Planning Specialist and fellow RER Advisory Board member. At a workshop on climate action, Mr. Sebastian spoke about the importance of managing large landscape forests and highlighted the important role of the RER programme in restoring degraded wetlands in Sumatra, and specifically on the Kampar peninsula.
“The fact is, restoring wetlands is just as important as protecting them. But it’s not possible to restore forests and wetlands to their original state,” he said. “So when it comes to restoration, it’s important to set objectives and for the parties involved to be clear about what they want to achieve,” he said.
“Restoration is really about re-establishing ecosystem functioning, where these have been degraded or lost.”
Mr. Sebastian pointed to the progress made by the RER programme. “We now have a much more comprehensive understanding of the wetlands of the Kampar peninsula – what lives in them, how they function, and where things need fixing. We can’t restore the landscape without understanding its nature and functioning intimately”.
“The Kampar Peninsula is a large landscape, which makes it all the more worth restoring. You have more chances of success when you are operating at large scales. We need more businesses with the resources and motivation to take on this challenge and help protect areas that are rich in biodiversity”.