Capital Finance International (CFI.co) - a print journal and digital resource platform reporting on business, economics and finance - has honoured Asia Plantation Capital as the ‘Best Sustainable Asset Forestry Management Team – Global’, in its Asset Management Awards for 2014.
The judges recognised Asia Plantation Capital’s contribution to the environment, and acknowledged the company’s effective and dedicated focus on sustainability, while simultaneously delivering excellent results as a business.
In announcing the award, Capital Finance International said, “Our winner, Asia Plantation Capital, has projects across four continents and assets owned or under management that are expected to exceed US$1 billion in the not too distant future. Asia Plantation Capital works sensitively with local communities to provide much needed investment, as well as social and cultural support, in order to discourage deforestation and illegal logging activities. We are happy to note that locals employed by Asia Plantation Capital are very well treated and provided with meaningful opportunities to improve their economic prospects in ways that protect and nourish the environments in which they live.”
Established officially in 2008 (although operating privately since 2002) the group now has plantation and agricultural projects on four continents, with operational projects at various stages in Thailand, Malaysia, China, Laos, India, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, North America and Europe.
Part of the Asia Plantation Capital Group, Asia Plantation Capital (APC) also serves as plantation and agricultural managers and advisors to several Private Equity Funds that focus on the forestry, farming, and renewable energy investment sectors. To date, in excess of US$600 million worth of plantations and biological assets are currently owned and/or under management on behalf of private clients, and this is expected to rise over the next decade, with a near horizon forecast of US$1 billion.
At the heart of Asia Plantation Capital’s mission statement is the intention to become the world’s leading operator of sustainably managed forestry and agricultural plantations. These operations range from project evaluation and plantation management, through to forestry product distribution. APC strongly regards corporate responsibility as not simply being about securing profits for shareholders and investors, but also about contributing positively to society and the environment.
“We are incredibly proud that Asia Plantation Capital has received this award,” said Mr Barry Rawlinson, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Plantation Capital Asia Pacific. “Sustainability was one of concepts at the forefront of our minds when we started the company, and although there have been challenges along the way, we have stuck, steadfastly, to our mission and the values of sustainable practices and building up the communities that we are part of. The recognition of our efforts through this award is very much appreciated.”
He continued, “The greatest reward for us, however, has been seeing the positive impact we have on the communities that we are in. This is a never ending commitment from us, and we will continuously strive to develop and improve our efforts in sustainability.”
From the start to the end of the process, APC takes specific measures when acquiring plantations, and carefully designs each subsequent stage to ensure sustainability. At each phase - from initial plantation stock and land selection, to the inoculation techniques and end processing - systems have been subjected to rigorous scientific analysis and review.
The company is committed to research and development, and is constantly developing and enhancing techniques and technologies to expand the growth of the Aquilaria tree, bamboo, teak and other agroforestry projects in an environmentally friendly manner. To achieve this, Asia Plantation Capital has established an international Board of Scientific Research Advisors, comprised of experts in the field, and garnered from leading universities.
“We are constantly looking at ways to improve and update our practices with research from our international Board of Scientific Research Advisors, while always embracing new industry developments and standards,” said Mr Rawlinson. “Forestry and agriculture management has a very direct and immediate impact on the world in which we live, and we are always cognisant of the vital role we play in ensuring the sustainability of the environment, and society as a whole.”
The results of this research have made Asia Plantation Capital the largest commercial grower of Aquilaria trees in Southeast Asia, from which APC produces 100% pure, natural, and sustainable Oud oils for the international fragrance market, as well as the medical and incense industries.
All Aquilaria trees are harvested through a process that ensures sustainability, and sold to the international market with CITES certification, to demonstrate that the crop is grown, harvested and transported in an ethical and sustainable manner. The company stands firm in promoting the use of certified wood and certified wood products as the best way in which to prevent deforestation, protect biodiversity and combat poverty in the rainforest regions.
In Hong Kong, the formerly abundant Aquilaria tree (which in part gave the island its name, ‘Fragrant Harbour’), has almost been wiped out as a species, with the exception of a small farm on the island. Asia Plantation Capital is currently working closely with the said farmer, to reintroduce the tree to the island in greater numbers, and to ensure that it is grown and harvested in a sustainable manner. It is hoped that in due course, the tree will once again become a significant part of the territory’s flora.
Another of Asia Plantation Capital’s underlying core business principles is the dedication to working closely with communities, taking them away from deforestation and the illegal logging activities that were previously seen as a main source of income in some regions of Asia. Sustainability is more than just keeping things green; it’s also about investing in the community.
Local labour is employed in all APC’s plantations, and paid substantially above the annual average wage in all the countries in which they operate. Employees work 8-hour days, and enjoy ample rest periods, and in Sri Lanka (for example), staff and their families are even provided with free land on which to grow their own crops. Asia Plantation Capital also finances employees in the purchase of their own homes, or in the upgrading of their existing accommodation.
A regulated system of intercropping on plantations is employed, ensuring that trees are provided with cover and protection during the early years, by the crops that are planted between them. This system introduces nutrients to the soil in order to help the trees develop, while also providing revenue and food for employees. It is an exercise that is used widely in ethical plantations around the world. All surplus food crops are sold in the local markets, providing extra income for plantation workers.
Asia Plantation Capital also actively participates in building up the communities in which it operates, by supporting local education with the provision of educational materials, and by investing in cultural infrastructure and other important projects designed to enhance the quality of life in those communities.