After illegal logging allegations, certifier lodges complaint against paper giant APP

Jeremy Hance
March 07, 2012

Rainforest in Sumatra. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Rainforest in Sumatra. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Less than a week after Greenpeace released evidence that protected tree species were being illegally logged and pulped at an Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) mill in Sumatra, a major certifier, the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), has lodged a complaint and asked for an investigation. In addition to PEFC's move, the National Geographic Society (NGS), which was found to be sourcing from APP recently, has publicly broken ties with the company, and Greenpeace has handed over its evidence to Indonesian police who told the group there would be an investigation.

Last Thursday Greenpeace released a detailed report outlining a year-long investigation that found companies supplying APP were cutting and pulping ramin trees, which are legally protected under Indonesian law as well as under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The revelations comes after years of tussling between green groups, like WWF and Greenpeace, and APP. Conservation NGOs have targeted the paper brand for relying on rainforest and peatland destruction for its paper products, thereby endangering wildlife including Critically Endangered tigers and orangutans, emitting significant amounts of carbon, and clashing with local people.

"Greenpeace has caught Asia Pulp and Paper red-handed—this investigation shows its main pulp mill is regularly riddled with illegal ramin. This makes a mockery of their public claim to have a 'zero tolerance' for illegal timber," Bustar Maitar, Head of the Forests Campaign for Greenpeace Indonesia, said last week.

Now, one of APP's major certifiers, PEFC, has announced it is lodging an official complaint against the certification issued by SGS, a multinational corporation that does certification work, to PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper, an APP supplier. In a statement PEFC says the complaint asks SGS to "urgently investigate" the "use of controversial or illegally harvested timber in certified material."

PEFC has come under fire from green groups for certifying APP in the past. The world's other major forestry certifier, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), dropped APP in 2007 after a damning report in the Wall Street Journal.

Last month, SGS told WWF that its certification of APP's suppliers did not imply any level of sustainability, only an adherence to the law. But now even that basic certification appears to be in question.

Fallout from the Greenpeace report also hit the National Geographic Society (NGS), one of the world's biggest and most well-known non-profits. Greenpeace found APP fiber in a National Geographic coffee-table book. In response, National Geographic publicly stated it has not sourced from APP for "several years," but did not specify when sourcing stopped. The book in question, Global Birding, was published in late 2010.

"We do not use APP products in our current books. While there may be a few books in our inventory that were printed on APP paper, we no longer use materials supplied by this company and have not for several years," a spokesperson for National Geographic told mongabay.com. For its part, Greenpeace says it is "convinced" National Geographic will not source from APP again.

It remains unclear whether National Geographic's actions apply to its overseas operations, including its titles in Indonesia.

Other companies using fiber from APP in the report included Xerox, Wal-Mart China, Barnes and Noble, and Danone among others.

Finally, Greenpeace has sent the evidence from its investigation to the Indonesian police.

"After receiving the evidence the Deputy Director of Special Crimes told me that this case would indeed be categorized as an illegal logging activity and that the police would be coordinating with the Ministry of Forestry to investigate the matter further," Greenpeace wrote in a blog.

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Investigation links APP to illegal logging of protected trees

(03/01/2012) A year-long undercover investigation has found evidence of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) companies cutting and pulping legally protected ramin trees, a practice that violates both Indonesian and international law. Found largely in Sumatra's peatswamp forests, the logging of ramin trees (in the genus Gonystylus) has been banned in Indonesia since 2001; the trees are also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and thus require special permits to export. The new allegations come after APP, an umbrella paper brand, has lost several customers due to its continued reliance on pulp from rainforest and peatland forests in Sumatra.

National Geographic linked to rainforest destruction

(03/01/2012) A new report by Greenpeace has found a direct link between National Geographic Society (NGS) products and rainforest destruction in Indonesia that threatens tigers and orangutans. An analysis on National Geographic books found Sumatran rainforest fiber from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a brand whose suppliers have been linked to rainforest destruction in Sumatra, and, in the most recent Greenpeace report, alleged illegal logging of protected rainforest trees. One of the world's largest non-profit science and educational organizations, National Geographic is known worldwide for its magazines, documentaries, and award-winning photos. The organization also has a long-standing history of championing environmental and conservation issues. However, National Geographic says it has not sourced APP paper for "several years."

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (March 07, 2012).

After illegal logging allegations, certifier lodges complaint against paper giant APP.