A year-long investigation by Greenpeace reveals that Asia Pulp and Paper is pulping ramin trees to produce paper. In 2001, Indonesia banned the logging of ramin trees. Ramin is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be exported without special permits.
Greenpeace filmed undercover in APP’s Indah Kiat pulp mill in Perawang, Sumatra where they found hundreds of thousands of rainforest logs, including ramin logs, waiting to be pulped. Much of this timber comes from the peat swamp forests that are home to Sumatran tigers. Greenpeace took samples of the timber to the Institute of Wood Technology and Wood Biology at the University of Hamburg, where Dr. Gerald Koch confirmed that 46 of the 59 samples were ramin.
Greenpeace produced a short film of its investigations:
WWF is also campaigning against APP’s destructive pulp and paper operations. A recent report from WWF, titled, “Don’t Flush Tiger Forests” (pdf file, 9.6 MB), documents how two toilet tissue brands, Paseo and Livi, source their fibre from APP and are therefore complicit in the destruction of Sumatra’s forests. In the report, WWF states that,
“APP oversees the largest commercial deforestation operation in Sumatra. Since APP started operating in Sumatra in 1984, the company is estimated to have pulped nearly 5 million acres of forests.”
In the 1990s, APP stated (pdf file, 1.3 MB) that by 2004 “substantially all” of the raw material supplying its Indah Kiat pulp mill would come from plantations. Obviously, that didn’t happen so APP moved its “100% plantation” deadline back to 2007. In 2007, in its “Environment Report” (pdf file, 5.1 MB), APP quietly moved the deadline back to 2009. And the Indonesian government joined in the game. At an “APP Sustainability Seminar” (yes, you read that correctly), Koes Saparyadi, Senior Advisor on Legal Cases of the Forestry Minister of the Republic of Indonesia delivered a message from the Minister of Forests. He said that,
“The Government of Indonesia is committed to the sustainability and long-term viability of its forests. We are committed to alleviating the pressure on our natural forests by requiring that all of Indonesia’s pulp and paper companies be 100% reliant on plantation grown wood by end of 2009.”
Obviously, the Ministry of Forestry did precisely nothing to enusre that APP actually complied with this requirement and there was no penalty when the company failed to do so. In 2011, Aida Greenbury, APP’s Managing Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations, pushed the deadline back still further. She wrote that “In five years, we are aiming for 100 per cent being sourced from our own plantations.”
In response to Greenpeace’s investigations, APP, of course, denies any wrongdoing:
“Asia Pulp & Paper group (APP) maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy for illegal wood entering the supply chain and has comprehensive chain of custody systems to ensure that only legal wood enters its pulp mill operations.”
A couple of years ago, I tried to find out more about APP’s “comprehensive chain of custody systems”. APP hires a company called SGS to carry out audits, so, in January 2010, I wrote to SGS to request (amongst other things) copies of SGS’s Audit Statements. Predictably, I didn’t get any copies of the Audit Statements. But on 8 February 2010, Gerrit Marais, Qualifor Programme Director at SGS, wrote to tell me that,
“VLO [verification of legal origin] audits are carried out by qualified auditors, using a predefined checklist and the certificate holder is informed beforehand of the audit dates. For chain of custody evaluations, auditors use both on site inspections, interviews with staff and workers and document review to check compliance with the standard.”
One Audit Statement is publicly available, on page 134 of APP’s 2007 “Environmental and Social Sustainability Report” (pdf file 6.1 MB). Here it is (click on the image for a larger version):
SGS’s Audit Statement explains that “no evidence of any illegal material entering the current supply system was found”. Of course, given the fact that SGS informs APP before it carries out its inspections of APP operations, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that SGS failed to uncover anything illegal. But there’s a very interesting notice at the end of the Audit Statement:
“This statement is valid for the time of the audit and does not represent an ongoing verification. It does not represent a certificate of legality…”
Which presumably means that APP should not be using SGS’s Audit Statements as proof of legality.
APP gets support from some strange sources these days. In addition to a major PR campaign that includes adverts on CNN and SkyTV, APP is working with Carbon Conservation, an Australian carbon trading firm. In April 2011, Dorjee Sun, the CEO of Carbon Conservation, announced “a new partnership between APP and Carbon Conservation to design a sustainability roadmap to 2020, which will make APP one of the most sustainable paper companies in the world”.
In an interview shortly after this announcement Dorjee Sun explained that,
“Our job now is to work with them [APP] over the next ten years. Because what you’ve got to realise is that corporations, in order to change really take time. You know, you’re changing the fundamentals of an economy and . . . that takes time. So we are creating a milestones roadmap.”
But before helping APP create another milestone littered roadmap, Dorjee Sun needs to take a look at where APP came from. If he does, he’ll find plenty of milestones (in 2004, 2007, 2009, for example) that the company has bulldozed its way through.