Walmart fires back at Greenpeace over deforestation charges

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
July 07, 2010



Walmart on Wednesday fired back at Greenpeace after the activist group linked the retail giant to destruction of Indonesia's rainforests through its purchases from Sinar Mas Group's Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a Singapore-based firm associated with destructive logging practices.

Noting that it was already working with Greenpeace to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain, the world's largest retailer said it "does not support deforestation" and does not source from APP for its "largest markets." Walmart said it was "surprised" Greenpeace targeted it in a recent press release announcing 'How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet' [PDF], a report alleging environmental transgressions by APP, including destruction of rainforests and drainage of carbon-dense peatlands.

"We were surprised Greenpeace would single us out in their press release as we have been in ongoing discussions with them and continue to partner on a variety of projects around the world," said Walmart in a statement, alluding to its work with Greenpeace to reduce the impact of cattle ranching in the Amazon. "Globally, we are committed to traceability in the timber supply chain, and we work closely with government, NGO and supplier partners to build a better, more transparent, and more sustainable supply system."


Draining and clearing of peat forest in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Seeking maximum exposure for its new report, Greenpeace linked Walmart to rainforest destruction in Southeast Asia. In the process, the activist group may have damaged its credibility after a series of highly influential reports on palm oil, soy, and cattle ranching which pushed global giants to implement new sourcing policies.
Walmart China continues to source from APP, but Walmart says it has "taken the steps to stop development on private brand products with APP and are looking at what measures can be taken regarding branded products."

In response to Walmart's statement, Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Andy Tait told mongabay.com "Walmart's decision to phase out APP products in China is an extremely positive step forward, assuming it's now confirmed. Sinar Mas/APP have to wake up to the fact that in a global market place their current business practices are completely unacceptable - and this decision provides yet more evidence of that."

Tait added that Greenpeace targeted Walmart as "one of a number of international retailers operating in China who at the time of the report launch not taken a clear stance in relation to probably the most notorious pulp and paper company in the world."

APP has a nefarious reputation in environmental circles due to its damaging logging operations in Sumatra, China, and Cambodia. In recent years these concerns spurred Walmart, Ricoh, Office Depot, Staples, Woolworths, and others to cancel contracts with the firm. APP also lost its accreditation under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an environmental certification standard for timber and paper products. In response, the company launched a marketing effort to promote its "green" image. The campaign has been touted by activist groups as a prime example of "greenwashing", or misrepresenting its environmental credentials in order to win back business.





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CITATION:
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com (July 07, 2010).

Walmart fires back at Greenpeace over deforestation charges.

http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0707-walmart_vs_greenpeace.html