Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has reported an accidental breach of its moratorium on deforestation.
In May, Indonesian environmental coalition Eyes on the Forest alleged that the forest products giant had violated its deforestation moratorium when an area of forest was cleared on a concession belonging to APP supplier PT. Riau Indo Agropalma (RIA) on the island of Sumatra. Eyes on the Forest documented the clearing with geo-referenced photographs and issued a report.
In response, APP and The Forest Trust (TFT) dispatched a team to investigate the matter. They found that 70 hectares of forest was indeed cleared “in breach of our moratorium.” But the story is more complex than APP returning to its old forest management practices — the 70 hectares were part of a community development program mandated under Indonesian law.
Nonetheless, APP says the decision to allow the clearing to proceed was a mistake.
“This approval was granted because RIA had, two years previously, entered into an agreement with a local community to develop the area as part of a livelihood support program – an obligation of concession owners,” wrote APP’s Aida Greenbury in a letter introducing the results from the investigation. “The Forest Conservation Policy Implementation Team concluded that the agreement with the community should be honored.”
“This approval should not have been given because all natural forest is covered by APP’s No Deforestation policy – our commitment to stop natural forest clearance is clear and absolute. The correct response should have been to highlight the case to APP and TFT senior management so that steps could be taken to meet, and consult with the community on alternative development possibilities.”
APP said it is now reviewing its internal sign-off procedures to led to the decision and looking into whether there have been other similar cases since its moratorium went into effect in February 2013.
“We remain steadfastly committed to our Forest Conservation Policy and all of its commitments,” wrote Greenbury.
—Three excavators were caught red handed in this photo, felling trees of natural
forest in PT. Riau Indo Agropalma (RIA) concession. Photo taken by Eyes on the Forest at 0°4’38.93″N, 102°57’4.18″E on 8 April 2013.
APP’s Forest Conservation Policy bans it from using timber sourced from forest areas that have more than 35 tons of carbon — effectively most vegetation types above secondary scrub. The policy aims to boost the firm’s international standing, which has long-suffered due to APP’s environmental record, which included more than two decades of clearing wildlife-rich rainforests and peatlands as well as a number of cases of social conflict.
Pressure from green groups was critical in compelling APP to adopt the policy. Colorful campaigns by Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, WWF, Eyes on the Forest, and a raft of local NGOs substantially tarnished APP’s brand and led to large-scale customer defections. Environmental groups have since turned their attention to APRIL, which together with APP controls more than 80 percent of Indonesia’s pulp and paper market, but has yet to ban conversion of rainforests and peatlands.
Still, both companies have in recent weeks been linked to fires that are driving the haze that is polluting the skies above Singapore and Malaysia. Both APP and APRIL say they maintain “no burn” policies and have blamed non-company actors — specifically slash-and-burn farmers — for the fires. Investigations into the sources of the fires are ongoing.
Fate of deforested lands in Riau, 2007-2012
The establishment of timber and oil palm plantations is the primary driver of deforestation in Sumatra over the past thirty years. The clearing and drainage of large areas of peat forest for these plantations has greatly increased the risk of fire across Riau, Jambi, and South Sumatra — provinces where the bulk of hotspots are now concentrated.
(06/26/2013) New analysis of land cover in Riau Province reveals the outsized role industrial plantations play in driving deforestation and associated haze. The analysis, conducted by Eyes on the Forest, finds that up to 56% of deforestation in Riau between 2007 and 2012 can be linked to timber plantations for pulp and paper production. The figure for oil palm plantations may be as high as 31%.
(05/14/2013) Pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) has launched a $7 million ecosystem restoration project to restore and protect over 20,000 hectares of peat forest in Indonesia’s Riau province, Mongabay-Indonesia reported last week.
(04/29/2013) In February, Asia Pulp & Paper, one the world’s largest paper producers, announced a forest conservation policy that would effectively exclude fiber sourced through conversion of rainforests and peatlands. The announcement however was met by skepticism by many in the environmental movement due to APP’s failures to abide by previous commitments to avoid rainforest logging.
(04/04/2013) Two logging companies that supply Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with timber have not violated the Indonesian forestry giant’s new zero deforestation commitment, according to a field investigation by The Forest Trust, a conservation group. The investigation was a direct response to allegations raised in a report published last week by Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan (RPHK), a consortium of local NGOs in West Kalimantan, the western-most province in Indonesian Borneo. The RPHK report found evidence of active clearing within two concession areas linked to Asia Tani Persada (ATP) and Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK), companies that supply APP with timber for its pulp mills.
(03/29/2013) 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 entirely accurate. 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.
(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.
(02/12/2013) 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.