On Thursday AFP reported that green groups have accused Indonesian forestry giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) of breaking its commitment to stop clearing natural forests and peatlands. But that’s not the whole story.
What the coalition of environmental groups in Indonesian Borneo actually reported was clearing by two companies that supply APP with fiber, not deforestation by APP-owned companies. Under its new forest conservation policy, APP says it will terminate contracts with suppliers who continue to clear. Therefore APP is not in breach of the commitment unless it continues to source fiber from the companies in question provided they are determined to be clearing natural forest or peatlands.
APP says it is currently investigating the situation. Initial reports suggest that in one of the concessions — owned by Daya Tani Kalbar — there is an overlapping license with a palm oil company, which may be clearing the peat forest for an oil palm plantation unrelated to APP. The other concession — owned by Asia Tani Persada — includes an overlapping mining license, although the mining area appears to be distant from where the forest clearing was documented. Overlapping licenses are a common problem in Indonesia, making it difficult to determine who has what rights to land. As a result, there may be several claimants — including companies, individuals, and communities — for any given tract of forest.
However it isn’t surprising that environmentalists are skeptical of APP’s forest policy: the logging giant has broken three previous commitments to end logging in natural forest areas (2004, 2007, and 2009). This time though, APP’s policy is ambitious enough that one of its most vocal critics and agitators, Greenpeace, has suspended its highly-damaging campaign against the paper producer. That campaign cost APP tens of millions of dollars in lost business since 2009.
Courtesy of the Kalimantan Forest Monitoring Volunteers (RPHK)
Greenpeace, which is now involved with monitoring APP’s compliance with the agreement, still hasn’t blessed APP as a paper supplier. The activist group is taking a wait-and-see approach to gauge whether APP will stick to the policy. Until then, Greenpeace is advising paper buyers to avoid the brand.
Greenpeace’s position is being echoed by other groups that have targeted APP, including WALHI, one of the Indonesian NGOs that is part of the monitoring effort in West Kalimantan.
“We call on global buyers of pulp and paper to remain skeptical and await independent verification by independent NGOs of the field implementation of APP’s FCP before making any new purchasing decision,” Anton P. Wijaya, Director Executive of WALHI’s West Kalimantan chapter, said in a statement. “Continued forest clearance and peat canal development by APP suppliers without any high conservation value, high carbon stock and peat study sends a bad signal about the implementation of APP’s commitment to conservation that has been broadcasted around the world.”
Most of APP’s logging and forest conversion has occurred on the island of Sumatra. Environmentalists say APP’s paper production laid waste to more than 2 million hectares of forest and peatlands since the mid-1980s, increasing risks to endangered species like the Sumatran rhino and tiger.
APP’s new forest conservation policy is being implemented by The Forest Trust, an international NGO that in 2011 brokered a precedent-setting deal with Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, to end deforestation for new plantations. GAR is owned by the same parent conglomerate — Sinar Mas Group — as APP.
(03/27/2013) Less than two months after its implementation, two Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) suppliers in Indonesian Borneo have been accused of violating the company’s new sustainability policy, which includes a zero deforestation commitment throughout its entire supply chain.
(03/21/2013) The Forest Trust (TFT), the NGO that brokered Asia Pulp & Paper’s no deforestation commitment in February 2013, will produce monthly updates on Indonesian forestry giant progress toward avoiding conversion of natural forests and reducing social conflict with communities. The reports aim to both allay fears among some environmental groups that APP will not respect the commitment and advance the paper producer’s goal of eliminating rainforest and peatland destruction from its supply chain.
(03/19/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper’s widely heralded forest conservation policy came after the forestry giant had already cleared nearly all of the legally protected forests within its concessions in Sumatra, alleges a new report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.
(02/15/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest paper companies, announced earlier this month that it will no longer cut down natural forests in Indonesia and will demand similar commitments from its suppliers. The announcement was received with guarded optimism by Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs who have waged a persistent campaign to change APP’s forest policies.
(02/12/2013) After Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper’s announcement last week that it will no longer source fiber produced from destruction of tropical rainforests, environmental groups are now urging Indonesia’s other major paper company to make a similar commitment. On Tuesday, WWF echoed Greenpeace’s call for Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. Like APP, APRIL has been linked to large-scale conversion of Sumatra’s endangered rainforests for industrial tree plantations to produce pulp and paper.
(02/05/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant that has been widely criticized for its role in driving deforestation and contributing to social conflict in Indonesia, today announced a zero deforestation policy that could have a dramatic impact on efforts to slow the Southeast Asian nation’s high rate of deforestation. The policy, which went into effect February 1, is ambitious enough that one of APP’s most vocal critics and agitators, Greenpeace, will suspend its highly-damaging campaign against the paper giant. The campaign against APP has cost the paper giant tens of millions of dollars in lost business since 2009. The new policy targets several of the major criticisms against APP, including deforestation, degradation of high carbon peatlands, conservation of critical wildlife habitat, and social conflict with local communities.