War of words between Greenpeace, Asia Pulp & Paper over deforestation allegations

Rhett Butler, mongabay.com
November 16, 2011



Forest clearing in the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in central Sumatra
Forest clearing in the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in central Sumatra. Earlier this year Greenpeace launched a report targeting toy-makers for packaging fiber sourced from APP. The centerpiece of the campaign was a spoof of Mattel's Barbie character.

Greenpeace and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a giant global paper supplier, are locked in a heated battle over the activist group's allegations that APP products contain fiber sourced from the destruction of forests in Indonesia. At stake is APP’s access to some of the world's most lucrative markets.

After losing several high profile customers in recent months due to the Greenpeace campaign, APP earlier this month fired back at Greenpeace in a press release that accused the activist group of making "false allegations."

The APP press release asserts that "claims by Greenpeace International that two Asia Pulp & Paper products were 'proven' to contain 'Indonesian rainforest fibre' have no scientific basis, it has been confirmed.".

APP claimed that a letter issued by Integrated Paper Services (IPS), the company that provided the testing services Greenpeace used to demonstrate the existence of mixed tropical hardwood (MTH) fiber — typically sourced from natural forests — in APP products, disproved Greenpeace's claims.

How APP is Toying with Extinction.
How APP is Toying with Extinction - PDF
"Greenpeace based its entire global campaign against APP on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre. The company Greenpeace asked to carry out the tests has admitted this claim cannot be justified," said Aida Greenbury, APP Managing Director, in a statement.

"If there were any MTH materials in the packaging, it is highly likely (95%) that they came from recycled material. Or they came from a sustainably managed forest in another part of the world, for example South America."

But while APP is resolute in its assertions that its paper products do not contain tropical forest fiber, Greenpeace is insistent its campaign is well-supported by the facts. The green group specifically disputes points raised in APP's press release.

"APP, apparently with the support of their PR company, Cohn and Wolfe, has very deliberately misrepresented the work that IPS have undertaken for Greenpeace," said Greenpeace forest campaigner Andy Tait, in an email to mongabay.com. "The clearest example of this comes through the reference in their press release to the testing of recycled fibre content."

How APP is Toying with Extinction.
APP Sustainability Report 2008/2009
"Firstly, IPS was asked to test the virgin fibre component of the packaging products, a fact that was ignored. Secondly, IPS testing procedures do identify recycled fibre content if present, a fact that was also ignored. Finally APP appears to imply that IPS gave them specific information about testing for recycled fibre content, something that IPS has confirmed is not the case."

Tait added that APP's premise that Greenpeace's "entire global campaign against APP on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre" was also false.

"The conclusion that our campaign against APP is based on a single premise is ridiculous," he said. "We’ve got a mountain of evidence linking APP to rainforest destruction, starting with APP’s own documents."

"And then we have our own research. By carrying out overflights of APP concession areas we have repeatedly documented, using GPS images, large-scale rainforest clearance by APP’s suppliers. Our mappers have pinpointed deforestation in APP supplier concessions, our on-the-ground investigations have tracked the timber from these areas to APP mills, and our chain-of-custody research links the products from these mills to global brands like those in the toy sector."

"Forensic testing has also confirmed the presence of rainforest fibre (mixed tropical hardwood/ MTH) in a number of APP products that we had tested. Given that Indonesia is the only commercial scale producer of MTH for pulp, this evidence shows us that these materials indeed come from Indonesian rainforest destruction."

Map of APP's concessions in the Kerumutan Peat Swamp Forest
The 1.3 million hectare Kerumutan Peat Swamp Forest.

Map of APP's concessions in Sumatra
Click image to view map.
APP disagreed. It suggested that any presence of MTH could be attributed to contamination from recycled fiber used in other layers of toy packaging or from sources outside of Indonesia. "The testing cannot indicate presence of 'Indonesian rainforest fibre' in APP products," APP told mongabay.com. "The testing says nothing about whether the MTH fibres they claim to have found were from sustainable sources or not."

APP added that the top sheet of a multi-layered paper product could not be tested in isolation because it would not be possible to separate it from the surface of the carton stock. Furthermore, APP said, "in a finished product sample, both virgin and recycled fibers are already mixed together into the finished product as part of the production process."

Other sources cast doubt on APP's assertion that MTH would have come from other sources. "Indonesia is the only country where MTH is used in large-scale pulp production," stated Twotogether, a paper trade journal, in a 2004 analysis of the MTH market.

Map of APP's concessions in Sumatra
Graphic from Greenpeace's How APP is Toying with Extinction report explaining how MTH fits into its campaign.
"As far as I know, the only mixed tropical hardwood pulp commercially available in the world comes from Indonesia," said Lafcadio Cortesi of the Rainforest Action Network, an advocacy group in the midst of a campaign to reform practices of APP and APRIL, another Indonesian pulp and paper producer. "A pulp broker I spoke with said '99 percent of MTH is from Indonesia.'"

"MTH is not a regular fiber source," Dr. Heinz-Joachim Schaffrath of the Institution for Paper Science and Technology, a paper services firm based in Darmstadt, Germany, told mongabay.com. "What we observed during all the analysis we had to carry out in the last months is that only with paper or pulp coming from Indonesia or China we had to state that there is a suspicion of MTH."

The Institution for Paper Science and Technology was not involved in analysis of APP's fiber but added that it would likely be to determine whether MTH in a virgin fiber layer was the product of contamination from adjacent layers below.

"Usually it is possible to separate a top layer from the others. However, the statement of the company is correct, we have to expect fibers from the second layer, too. But this contamination is only a small amount of the total fibers. And the secondary fibers of the middle layers do usually not consist of 100% MTH."

"MTH is expected to be a small amount of fibers in waste paper as a secondary fiber source. Therefore, the probability to find unknown fibers in a top layer made from virgin pulp originating from the secondary fibers in the under layer is very small."

Map of APP's concessions in Sumatra
Fiber layers in an APP product. Greenpeace says it commissioned IPS to test only the top glossy layer for traces of MTH. The glossy layer consists of virgin fiber content derived from two types of pulp: softwood (NBKP) and hardwood (LBKP). In the case of APP, LBKP would likely be derived from acacia, MTH, and/or eucalyptus. MTH generally does not come from timber plantations.
Greenpeace said IPS testing revealed the top sheet of APP's toy packaging product to be about 50 percent, well beyond a trace amount.

APP's representation of the contents of the letter from IPS has also been called into question. APP has refused to make the actual letter from IPS publicly available, but has quoted selectively from it in making its case against the Greenpeace campaign. "Greenpeace seriously misled the toy industry by claiming that it had scientifically proven APP's products contained 'Indonesian rainforest fibres'," said APP. "The tests showed no such thing, as the CEO of IPS has confirmed."

APP said the letter referred to testing of APP fiber found in both Cottonsoft, a New Zealand toilet paper brand, and toy packaging. But Greenpeace refutes this. It also says that IPS did not disclose its specific testing methods to APP.

Without the full text of the letter, it is unclear what IPS said. This is significant because last year APP was criticized for misrepresenting an "audit" conducted on its behalf by a firm run by forestry lobbyist Alan Oxley. In September 2010, APP announced in a press release that the "audit" had cleared it of allegations levied by Greenpeace, yet the report effectively confirmed that APP was indeed engaged in conversion of 'deep' peat areas. The "audit" argued that this activity isn't illegal under Indonesian law, while citing irrelevant data about Indonesia's forest cover and erroneously argued that plantation industries are not significant drivers of deforestation in Indonesia. A group of prominent scientists subsequently said this effort represented an attempt to "muddy the waters" on deforestation.

“I’ve become very leery of the way APP represents itself,” said William Laurance, a tropical ecologist at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. “They produce TV commercials and ad campaigns that make them sound like Mother Nature, but in reality they’re one of the biggest forest-destroyers in the world. Their association with Alan Oxley is, in my view, a prime example of their frequently deceptive approach, given Oxley’s well-known role as a paid defender and apologist for industrial forestry interests linked to large-scale deforestation."

Greenpeace says APP's latest press release looks like an attempt to "sow seeds of doubt... we assume that the plan is to persuade journalists that our evidence isn’t reliable or robust, so they would be less interested to cover our stories about APP."

Bustar Maitar, Head of Indonesian Forest Campaign, said APP's press release even alludes to a "smear campaign" currently being conducted against Greenpeace in Indonesia. Last month Tait and John Sauven, Greenpeace International's Executive Director, encountered immigration troubles in Indonesia, while last week the Indonesian headquarters has been ordered closed by a Jakarta authority for alleged "zoning violations." At the same time, rhetoric about Greenpeace's "foreign funding sources" has become more heated.

"Greenpeace is under escalating attack in Indonesia now, at the same time that our campaign work against APP has increased here and around the world. One of the claims used to attack us is that we represent so called ‘ foreign interests’, claims that have no basis in fact," Bustar told mongabay.com. "The use of this type of term by APP is almost certainly deliberate, despite the fact the company knows very well that our office, registered in Indonesia and led by Indonesian staff, is leading our campaign here. It’s yet another poorly thought through attempt to deflect attention from the real issue, which is APP’s continued involvement in deforestation."

Bustar also objected to the APP press release's assertion that Greenpeace is trying to stop foreign toy companies from doing business in Indonesia. "That is a total misrepresentation of our work," he said. "We are simply asking toy companies and those from other sectors to source their materials in a responsible way, by not doing business with APP until the company stops relying on forest destruction to feed its pulp mills."

For its part, APP maintains it abides by Indonesian laws and is committed to reducing its impact on forests. "APP is committed to continuous improvement of its sustainability practices and wants to work closely with all concerned stakeholders, including NGOs, to support sustainable development in Indonesia," said Greenbury.

But until APP provides solid evidence refuting Greenpeace's accusation that its pulp and paper production isn't coming at the expense of natural forests in Indonesia, APP will have a difficult time winning over critics.

"APP has misled us before," said ecologist Laurance. "Why should we believe them this time around?"

Editor's note. In order to allay any potential concerns about misrepresentation of statements, below is the context of the quotes from APP and Greenpeace used in this story.

Q&A with Greenpeace

mongabay.com: According to APP, the letter from IPS says the testing doesn't prove country of origin for APP's fiber. Does Greenpeace believer otherwise?

Andy Tait: Greenpeace did not claim that the tests in-and-of themselves identify or 'prove' country of origin. But it’s clear that the MTH fibre test results do, in this case, indicate or 'show' the country of origin as Indonesia, because Indonesia is the only country where MTH is harvested at a commercial scale for pulp. The presence of acacia in the test results provides further supporting evidence that Indonesia is the origin of the pulp fibre; acacia pulpwood plantations are mainly being harvested from Indonesia at this time, with APP being one of the largest producers.

I note with interest that APP has provided no evidence to support their claim that any MTH found in these products would be coming from PEFC certified forests around the world. Perhaps they could also explain where the acacia in these products has come from if not from Indonesia?

mongabay.com: In its press release, APP states: “Greenpeace based its entire global campaign against APP on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre. The company Greenpeace asked to carry out the tests has admitted this claim cannot be justified." Is this an accurate conclusion?

Andy Tait: The claim that our campaign against APP is based on a single premise is frankly, laughable. We’ve got a mountain of evidence linking APP to rainforest destruction, and it starts with APP’s own documents. Some of these documents are public, like its latest corporate social responsibility report in which APP admits that it uses rainforest fibre, though it prefers to refer to this in PR-speak as "mixed wood residues". And then we have our own research. By carrying out overflights of APP concession areas we have repeatedly documented, using GPS images, large-scale rainforest clearance by APP’s suppliers. Our mappers have pinpointed deforestation in APP concessions, our on-the-ground investigations have tracked the timber from these areas to APP mills, and our chain-of-custody research links the products from these mills to global brands like those in the toy sector.

Forensic testing has also confirmed the presence of rainforest fibre (mixed tropical hardwood/ MTH) in a number of APP products that we had tested. Given that Indonesia is the only commercial scale producer of MTH for pulp, this evidence shows us that these materials indeed come from Indonesian rainforest destruction. The presence of acacia in the test results provides further evidence that Indonesia is the origin of the pulp fibre; acacia pulpwood plantations are mainly being harvested from Indonesia at this time, with APP being one of the largest producers. I note with interest that APP has provided no evidence to support their claim that any MTH found in these products would be coming from PEFC certified forests around the world. Perhaps they could also explain where the acacia in these products has come from if not from Indonesia?

mongabay.com: Did APP's press release represent the scope of IPS's work for Greenpeace?

Andy Tait: APP, apparently with the support of their PR company Cohn and Wolfe, has very deliberately misrepresented the work that IPS have undertaken for Greenpeace. The clearest example of this comes through the reference in their press release to the testing of recycled fibre content. Firstly, IPS only tested the virgin fibre component of the packaging products, a fact that was ignored. Secondly, IPS testing procedures do identify recycled fibre content if present, a fact that was also ignored. Finally APP appear to imply that IPS gave them specific information about testing for recycled fibre content, something that IPS have confirmed is not the case.

mongabay.com: Are you campaigning to stop toy companies from doing business in Indonesia?

Bustar Maitar: No, of course we aren’t campaigning to stop toy companies doing business in Indonesia, that is a total misrepresentation of our work. We are simply asking toy companies and those from other sectors to source their materials in a responsible way, by not doing business with APP until the company stops relying on forest destruction to feed its pulp mills.

mongabay.com: Why does APP's press release highlight "Amsterdam-based NGO"?

Bustar Maitar: Greenpeace is under escalating attack in Indonesia now, at the same time that our campaign work against APP has increased here and around the world. One of the claims used to attack us is that we represent so called ‘ foreign interests’, claims that have no basis in fact. The use of this type of term by APP is almost certainly deliberate, despite the fact the company knows very well that our office, registered in Indonesia and led by Indonesian staff, is leading our campaign here. It’s yet another poorly thought through attempt to deflect attention from the real issue, which is APP’s continued involvement in deforestation.

Q&A with APP

mongabay.com: Greenpeace tested virgin fiber for MTH, not recycled fiber. Why is APP citing recycled fiber?

APP: Greenpeace did not test 'virgin fibre'. They commissioned Integrated Paper Services (IPS) to conduct fibre testing of several varieties of toy packaging. Greenpeace did not know whether the packaging was recycled, virgin or otherwise. APP has been consistent in saying that 95% of our packaging for toy products comes from recycled material. The remaining 5% comes from PEFC-certified forests in other parts of the world. IPS did not conduct any tests to determine whether our fibre was recycled. IPS has also made it clear that Greenpeace's allegation - that their forensic testing 'proves' APP's products contain 'Indonesian rainforest fibre' - is unscientific.

mongabay.com: Is APP asserting that all non-recycled fiber is from sustainable sources? If so, where is the evidence for this?

APP: There is very clear evidence that the non-recycled fibre in our toy packaging comes from sustainable sources. The 5% which was not recycled comes from sustainably managed forests in other parts of the world, for example South America, which are certified by PEFC, the largest forest certification programme in the world. Wood legality, certification and rigorous Chain of Custody policies are at the heart of APP's operations. Consequently, of the raw materials we sources from our pulpwood suppliers:

- 35 per cent of the wood comes from recycled wood and paper.
- 30 per cent is certified by various legal certification programmes.
- 10 per cent is verified as being of legal origin (legally harvested
under Indonesian law).
- 25 per cent is from non-controversial sources in line with PEFC
guidelines.

mongabay.com: APP openly admits it is logging [editor's note: should have been "sourcing from"] natural forests for pulp and paper production (it has missed both of its deadlines for 100% sourcing from plantations). If this fiber doesn't go into packaging products, what is it used for? In 2009 APP China relied on imported wood for two-thirds of its fiber for pulp production.

APP: APP is not a 'logging company'. Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) is brand umbrella for paper products manufactured by a number of mills in Indonesia, inter alia PT. Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper Tbk, PT. Pindo Deli Pulp and Paper Mills, PT. Pabrik Kertas Tjiwi Kimia Tbk, PT. Lontar Papyrus Pulp & Paper Industries, PT. Ekamas Fortuna and PT. The Univenus in Indonesia. The majority of APP's production facilities hold Chain-of-Custody certification from LEI and PEFC. Wood legality is central to all of our operations, and our Chain of Custody policies ensure that no illegal wood enters our supply chain.

mongabay.com: Greenpeace states in its documentation (since confirmed via email) that it did test the "virgin fibre component" of the toy packaging. Did APP confirm with IPS that it did not actually test the virgin fibre component?

APP: IPS specifically clarified that they did not conduct any tests to determine whether the packaging fibre was recycled or otherwise. This means that the MTH found in the samples could be from recycled or virgin fiber. The response from Greenpeace further establishes their lack of understanding on the IPS analysis and testing method employed, since in a finished product sample, both virgin and recycled fibers are already mixed together into the finished product as part of the production process.

mongabay.com: Greenpeace did not claim that IPS's testing proved on its own that the fiber was from Indonesian forests -- Greenpeace says its claim is based on the combination of IPS's work and supply chain analysis.

APP: We would draw your attention to Greenpeace's report and statements which repetitively and directly mention "Forensic testing shows that packaging used by leading toy brands regularly contains Indonesian rainforest fibre." If it is not the intention of Greenpeace to make the claim that it was forensic testing that proves the fiber was from Indonesian forests, then this is clearly a false statement and therefore misleading to the general readers.

mongabay.com I'd like clarification on APP on its assertion that "IPS specifically clarified that they did not conduct any tests to determine whether the packaging fibre was recycled or otherwise." Can APP quote the exact language to that effect in the IPS letter?

This is relevant because APP's own product specs for packaging boards used for toys (attached) show that the top sheet is virgin fiber content. According to Greenpeace's website, IPS tested "the virgin fibre content of the glossy top layer of packaging board".

The product specs [editor: product specifications for a Sinar Mas product were attached] appear to contradict APP's claim that recycled and virgin fiber is mixed together.

APP: This is not an environmental report on the product. Can you tell us which of these terms you believe indicates the presence of purely virgin fibre?

mongabay.com This is based on several conversations I've now had on this issue with about a dozen people. Does APP use recycled materials in its virgin fiber? My understanding is that LBKP used by APP comes from acacia, mixed tropical hardwoods, and/or eucalyptus.

This brings up another issue. Why does the press release refer to fiber testing in New Zealand as well as the toy sector?

APP: This product spec proves what APP has been saying all along: that APP Indonesia's duplex packaging is made up of 95% recycled materials, and the remaining 5% is from PEFC certified, and legal, sustainable forests around the world. Therefore, Greenpeace is attacking a product that is inherently good for the environment.

As we have previously mentioned, IPS clarified that they did not perform tests to determine whether the packaging fibre was from recycled materials or otherwise, nor can country of origin be determined.

Consequently, APP stands by its statement of last week - that Greenpeace seriously misled the toy industry by claiming that it had scientifically proven APP's products contained 'Indonesian rainforest fibres'. The tests showed no such thing, as the CEO of IPS has confirmed."














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CITATION:
Rhett Butler, mongabay.com (November 16, 2011).

War of words between Greenpeace, Asia Pulp & Paper over deforestation allegations.

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1116-greenpeace_vs_app.html