Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cautious reactions to APRIL’s new commitment

Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL) has released a new Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP). The company will establish a moratorium on clearing in concessions where there has not been independent assessment of conservation values. APRIL also promised that it will complete plantation establishment by the end of 2014. APRIL is one of the most controversial paper companies, having cleared tropical rain forests of Sumatra, violating local community’s rights, threatening endangered species such as Sumatran Tiger, and releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere by converting peatlands into pulpwood plantations.

WWF cautiously welcomed the announcement, noting that the policy still “allows for APRIL to utilize wood from tropical forests in its mill until the end of 2019.” WWF is urging APRIL to stop using fibre from natural forests by 2014.

Woro, of Jikalahari, the environmental network of Riau, Indonesia, expressed more skepticism: “There is strong evidence that APRIL broke its own previous commitment regarding sustainable forest management. In the past this company announced an HCVF assessment in the Kampar Peninsula, but afterwards APRIL continued to convert these forests. Until now, APRIL has been involved in forest crimes and unsustainable forest practices, and we don’t have good reason to look at this new policy as a promising development.”

Lafcadio Cortesi, of Rainforest Action Network, responded to the policy by saying, “This new commitment is a missed opportunity which raises as many questions as it answers. The policy is limited in scope and has large loopholes and major gaps. It sends a clear signal to customers, investors as well as the companies colleagues in the World Business Council on Sustainable Development that APRIL and all of Sukanto Tanoto's holdings should remain no go, no buy.”

Zulfahmi of Greenpeace Southeast Asia states that, “APRIL's carefully orchestrated policy announcement is essentially a licensce to continue forest clearance. A glaring weakness is that it would allow its current suppliers to continue to destroy forest and peatlands for nearly a year, and give it another six more years until it would stop using rainforest fibre at its mill.”

“Before being accepted as a non controversial business partner, APRIL should also take its responsibility for the precious habitat destroyed in the past years, and commit to restore devastated habitats and return land to local communities” concluded Sergio Baffoni, of the European Environmental Paper Network. “Our member NGOs advise companies to continue avoiding any business with this company until a credible policy is adopted and implemented on the ground.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

APRIL faces expulsion from business sustainability group

Indonesian pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (ARPIL) faces expulsion from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a body of 200 large companies that have made sustainability commitments, if it fails to stop clearing rainforests and peatlands on the island of Sumatra, reports Greenpeace.

According to a letter from the WBCSD, APRIL has been put on "formal probation" to "to adjust its forest management and fiber procurement practices to align with the spirit and intent" of the association's principles, mission, and objectives". APRIL has twelve months to come into compliance or face expulsion.

The WBCSD has also asked APRIL to "consider transferring membership to its parent company – the [Royal Golden Eagle] RGE Group covering all its various operating units; including prospects of aligning RGE’s other forest industry operations with the FSG membership principles", a move that would effectively commit APRIL's sister logging and palm oil companies to abide by the coalition's sustainability standards.

Greenpeace, which has been urging the WBCSD to take action for months, welcomed the development. "When an organization led by CEOs of some of the world’s biggest corporations threatens to kick it out of the club, then you would think APRIL would listen," said Phil Aikman, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace. "It’s time for APRIL to take this threat seriously and finally implement an immediate moratorium on all further forest clearance. If companies like APP can, then what is APRIL waiting for?"
Recent data from Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry indicates that 60 percent of the wood APRIL uses in its mills comes from natural forests. The company is therefore one of the largest deforesters in Sumatra.

Activists have stepped up campaigns to change APRIL's sourcing practices after its biggest competitor — Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) — signed a comprehensive forest conservation policy last February. APRIL has no such policy.
"Given APRIL’s recent heavy dependence on rainforest fiber, Greenpeace has serious concerns about APRIL’s commitment to a zero deforestation policy and any ambition it may have to become 100% reliant on plantation fiber," said Aikman. "Greenpeace will continue to expose APRIL and RGE’s role in forest destruction and cut through the game of smoke and mirrors the company is playing with its customers."