Sinar Mas Group, the sprawling Indonesian conglomerate that has interests in coal mining, logging and wood-pulp production, palm oil plantations, real estate, and other industries, has hired Cameron Hume, the former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, as an adviser, according to Detik.com. Ambassador Hume stepped down from his post at the embassy in August after three years in the role.
The move comes as Sinar Mas works to improve its image abroad as it faces criticism over the environmental practices of some of its holdings, including Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology (SMART), a palm oil company.
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APP, one of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper suppliers, has suffered a wave of customer defections due to complaints over its environmental record in Sumatra, which has lost about half of its natural forest cover since 1985, according to an assessment released last month by WWF. APP has also been criticized for greenwashing, including the use of front groups to launch public attacks on companies that have dropped its products and NGOs that have raised concerns about its environmental conduct. APP has further misrepresented the results of independent auditors.
SMART has also been linked to transgressions, including inadequate consultation with local communities, failing to secure proper development permits, and clearing of peatlands and forests, according to a recent audit, which the found company failed to follow internal controls. The conduct violated standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certification initiative, and led several major customers, including Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, and Burger King, to suspend buying from SMART. The company is now working to come into compliance with the RSPO.
Both APP and SMART maintain they operate within Indonesian law and are working to improve operations.
APP did not return request for comment on Ambassador Hume’s hiring.
The U.S. embassy in Jakarta did not have immediate comment.