An excavator piles natural forest logs at a log pond inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province located at 1°0’51″N 102°19’50″E. © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace.
New data shows Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy rainforests on deep peat despite a high profile pledge to clean up its operations.
Today Greenomics-Indonesia released an analysis of two NASA Landsat images confirming that APRIL’s subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp Paper (RAPP) has cleared significant tracts of peat forest on Pulau Pedang island off Sumatra’s coast since January 2015. The activity suggests that APRIL is directly violating its January 2014 promise to end new plantation development by the end of 2014, says Greenomics.
“Based on the terms of APRIL’s Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP) – which was launched on 28 January 2014 – the clearing of natural forest and
forested peatlands after 31 December 2014 by APRIL-owned concessions and long-term suppliers constitutes a violation of its SFMP commitments,” said the Indonesian environmental group in a statement. “One of the commitments stated in the SFMP is that APRIL and its long-term supply partners will complete their plantation establishments by the end of 2014.”
Landsat images released by Greenomics.
Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics, called the transgression “embarrassing” for the pulp and paper giant.
“The spatial evidence shows that APRIL has ignored its own sustainability policy. Whatever the reasons, APRIL has committed an embarrassing violation,” she said “This violation clearly shows that despite what has been conveyed by APRIL at various international forums, the practice on the ground deviates from its own sustainability policy.”
APRIL has been widely criticized for its forestry practices, which include large-scale logging of rainforests and peatlands for industrial timber plantations. The company has also been condemned for its human rights record.
Global Forest Watch image showing RAPP’s full concession on Pedang Island, including recent tree cover loss, which is estimated at 5,878 hectares between 2001 and 2012.
Environmentalists contrast APRIL’s ongoing forest clearance with the zero deforestation policy adopted in 2013 by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), its biggest competitor. While APP also had a long tract record of social and environmental problems, its decision to clean up its operation was welcomed by some of its fiercest critics, including Greenpeace. Since then, APP has pledged to support the restoration and protection of a million hectares of forest and peatlands. An audit released last month by Rainforest Alliance concluded that APP is indeed making progress on several of its key environmental commitments, but still has a lot of work to do to resolve outstanding conflicts with local communities. That issue was highlighted last month when a villager was killed by security contractors at an APP subsidiary. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Global Forest Watch images showing the area in question (top), RAPP’s concession overlaid on the area (middle), and recent forest loss in and around the concession (bottom).
APRIL on the other hand has made a series of pledges that have missed the mark in the view of environmentalists. And the new evidence from Greenomics seems to indicate that APRIL is not even abiding by those commitments.
The new findings will put more pressure on companies that do business with APRIL, including Credit Suisse, which has provided finance to the firm despite a forest policy that on paper would bar such lending, according to BankTrack.org, an advocacy organization.
“Credit Suisse is breaching its own rules on almost every count by financing pulp and paper company Royal Golden Eagle Group (RGE Group),” said BankTrack, referring to APRIL’s parent RGE Group.