If you want to see just how complicated a supply chain can be, the operations of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) on Hainan Island, China, gives an idea of what goes into products that we often take for granted. And considering that APP is also an integral supplier to companies around the world, it is easy to see how one wayward employee or lax oversight can land a company in hot water with its stakeholders, particularly environmentalists. In APP’s case, its business on Hainan — from tree seedlings to the finished product — offers a case study on what it takes to evolve into a more responsible and sustainable company.
Trees, obviously, are to APP what wheat, soy or palm oil are to other companies. APP’s managed forests in Indonesia combine to cultivate far more raw material for the company than its current holdings in China. But those forests, concentrated in Hainan, offer a sense of the scale APP has developed as the world continues to demand paper.
APP’s most recent tour for journalists started from Haikou, the province’s capital and home to 2 million people. Skyscrapers and condominium high-rises eventually give way to a lush landscape of palm trees and plantations that grow just about everything from bananas to mangoes to rubber. After a 90-minute drive, we arrived at a site where eucalyptus trees soar when compared to the stalks of a papaya farm just a few hundred yards away.