How Asia Pulp and Paper Engages Women & Indigenous Communities In Sustainability Efforts

How Asia Pulp and Paper Engages Women & Indigenous Communities In Sustainability Efforts

Engaging Women and Indigenous Communities
Empowering women for sustainable development

Local and indigenous communities play a vital role in forest conservation worldwide. Suppose that corporations and companies that work the land are seeking new ways to revitalise and refine their sustainability initiatives; in that case, a concerted effort must be made to form partnerships with the communities that know the ground best. 

On top of involving local communities, taking the extra step to deepen women’s participation at every level – from being programme participants to excelling as senior management within a company – is key to achieving greater gender parity and moving towards a more equitable and socially-minded environment.

In Indonesia, one company that has taken it upon itself to do just that is Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Sinar Mas. Believing that thriving local communities will lead to thriving businesses and an improved green outlook for us all, Asia Pulp & Paper has channelled major investments into various community empowerment initiatives. Whether at the forestry, mill, or HQ level, Asia Pulp and Paper’s programmes support local economic conditions while creating tangible environmental benefits.

With a focus on long-term and sustainable livelihood improvements, Asia Pulp and Paper’s responses and programmes are guided by Social Impact Assessments (SIA) that consider the specific needs of the community they seek to uplift. Where relevant, a targeted five-year Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan is also put into place with priorities outlined across four pillars: Charity, Infrastructure, Capacity Building, and Community.

Asia Pulp and Paper’s programmes are key to their overall goal to help tackle the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, namely through reducing poverty, eliminating hunger, and promoting good health and well-being amongst stakeholders. A key commitment that has emerged from this is Asia Pulp and Paper’s Integrated Forestry and Farming Systems (IFFS), also known as the Desa Makmur Peduli Api (DMPA) programme.

What are the DMPA and IFFS?

A unified sustainability strategy geared towards actively involving indigenous villages in sustainable economic activities, DMPA and IFFS programmes under Asia Pulp & Paper’s Forest Conservation Policy seek to embrace and engage customary and local communities to achieve these goals.


Village and stakeholder selection for DMPA and IFFS programmes is based on proximity to concession areas. Villages must be located within a radius of three kilometres of concession areas while possessing a strong connection with forestry resources such as animal husbandry or horticulture and with an incidence of land or forest fire within the past three years. This criterion helps Asia Pulp and Paper reach out to communities already deeply involved with the target concession area to achieve the most effective and meaningful outcomes.

A wide variety of programme types are included under the DMPA, ranging from primary sector work in livestock and animal husbandry to helping smallholder plantations to providing machinery and work equipment. Tertiary sector businesses (SMEs) such as home industry and services and facilitating tourism within the villages are also included within the DMPA, allowing Asia Pulp and Paper to provide resources and funding according to each community’s needs and desired objectives.

As of end-2020, Asia Pulp and Paper’s DMPA and IFFS programmes were estimated to have impacted 386 villages and involved 31,418 households and 82 women’s groups. With long-term goals to increase that number to 500 villages, the five-year plan by APP has a CSR budget of US$1 million to be used for further outreach and involvement.

The DMPA has been key to achieving Asia Pulp and Paper’s key objectives of reducing poverty in indigenous communities and empowering women to build sustainable and alternative livelihoods.

Reducing Poverty in Indigenous Communities

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe and affected economies across all scales and sizes, a significant number of indigenous communities involved in Asia Pulp & Paper’s DMPA programmes survived through sustainable business practices. Primary and secondary sector activities such as honey cultivation, herbal drink sales, and the agriculture of food and vegetables were all sources of income that allowed participating DMPA communities to thrive during the pandemic. Additionally, indigenous communities received additional support during the pandemic through regular webinars in collaboration with partners. Participants were taught how to leverage the digital marketplace to widen their reach and further develop their products.  

Focused on developing ecotourism villages that balance economic growth with sustainability, these activities laid the foundations for capacity building. They equipped indigenous communities with trade skills to help them bear through the economic impacts of COVID-19 and lift them out of poverty. Coupled with additional support from local government and stakeholders, Asia Pulp and Paper has set out further plans to widen global access to DMPA products, aiding communities and diversifying micro, small, and medium businesses under the DMPA.

Empowering Women and Building Alternative Sustainable Livelihoods

By rendering assistance towards small and medium enterprises through the DMPA, Asia Pulp & Paper has also set its sights on empowering women in these communities as part of its overall sustainability strategy. Launched in 2018 in collaboration with Martha Tilaar Group (MTG), a leading manufacturer of cosmetics and herbal medicine, the women empowerment programme trained women from DMPA communities on how to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. 

Facilitated by the Indonesia Global Compact Network, participants in the programme were trained to identify and process valuable local herbs, which in turn function as alternative livelihoods for women and their families while enabling micro-entrepreneurship. Beyond that, MTG also provides full scholarships in developing skills such as spa therapy techniques, and opportunities to join the MTG team upon completion of training.

Asia Pulp and Paper also entered a partnership with the Doktor Sjahrir Foundation (DSF), which educates housewives in indigenous communities and villages on financial awareness. Inviting women in and around concession areas to improve their livelihoods through the Kalimantan Rattan Project, Asia Pulp and Paper, DSF and Vinto Craft provided rattan weaving training to the respective women in these areas. 

Conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vinto Craft equipped women with the product finishing techniques and product marketing to complement previous weaving practices. Since its launch in 2019 in the villages of Mengkiang and Miau Baru in Kalimantan, there have been 600 crafts produced by women craftspeople to date.

Asia Pulp & Paper and YDS have also conducted e-commerce workshops since 2020, teaching participants basic knowledge of online marketplaces and training them in marketing skills such as photography and copywriting. In 2021, the workshop invited trainers from a community of women entrepreneurs to share their thoughts on product innovation and how to develop a strong business model.

Other Sustainability Initiatives Promoting Education and Well-Being

Apart from the DMPA, Asia Pulp & Paper recognises that heightening education and well-being standards in indigenous communities is key to a social sustainability strategy that can withstand the test of time.

In 2022 the Tjiptamas Eka Bangsa Foundation established the Sinarmas Eka Bangsa (SEB) School in collaboration with Asia Pulp and Paper’s parent company. With long-term goals to make a positive contribution and improve the quality of education, Asia Pulp and Paper hopes to assist the government in accelerating equal education in Indonesia. 

SEB currently holds classes for children aged three to nine who are children of Asia Pulp and Paper’s subsidiary employees, or from surrounding communities. Through fun and interactive learning objectives as well as a curriculum that emphasises healthy and safe learning, SEB’s ideal is for every child to build a strong educational foundation for years to come. Future goals for SEB include gradually opening up high-school level classes, with sports facilities and advanced technology, so students may be ready and well-equipped to enter the workforce.

To complement efforts in training and education, Asia Pulp and Paper has also worked with the SPEAK Indonesia Foundation to provide clean water and sanitation for local communities. Seeking to raise the quality of life in indigenous villages, the project based in Kutanegara Village saw the comprehensive construction of sanitation facilities. Community-based Total Sanitation Programmes (STBM) also conducted training and education regarding the importance of hygiene.

As of 2020, 125 toilets have been built with community-led initiatives and funds managed by village institutions. This project served as a crucial case study for scaling up STBM programmes across other indigenous communities and how villages can implement community-based waste management. Stretch goals, which received funding from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, include a waste bank operation covering at least 200 households. The community group is looking to further improve the village’s sustainable economy by producing compost and catfish feed.

Concerted Commitment to Sustainability on All Fronts

Recognised as the only Indonesia pulp and paper company evaluated by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) to have made Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) commitments, Asia Pulp & Paper strongly acknowledges the FPIC as part of a holistic sustainability policy that considers both environmental and social impacts. The company’s commitments to FPIC extend to all its companies and subsidiaries, including PT Arara Abadi, PT Wirakarya Sakti and others mentioned in the RAN report.

Always looking to improve and strive to do better, Asia Pulp and Paper recognises that resolving existing disputes can be challenging due to the plethora of interacting factors within each discussion. As complex as they are storied, collaboration has been demonstrated to be the best approach as all stakeholders involved must have their voices heard. Asia Pulp and  Paper has continued to work with communities in these areas to co-manage farms, agricultural lands, and plantations while providing indigenous residents with improved incomes and more sustainable livelihoods.


Intending to establish sustainability as the top priority for economic progress, Asia Pulp & Paper strives to constantly empower women and indigenous communities with the tools necessary to succeed.

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