Pages tagged "peatland"

APRIL Makes A Mockery Of Its Own "Sustainable" Forest Policy


Almost six months after the release of its Sustainable Forest Management Policy, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL)—the second-largest Indonesian pulp & paper company—continues business-as-usual rainforest destruction, betraying the spirit and substance of its policy.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in May that APRIL-owned PT RAPP cleared massive swaths of carbon-rich peatlands on Pulau Padang, an island off the Sumatran coast that APRIL promised to help restore. Members of island community Desa Bagan Melibur have called on APRIL to terminate operations on their community land, and Desa Bagan Melibur’s May 17 protest is the most recent clash in a stark legacy of land disputes between APRIL and Padang’s thirteen villages since 2009.

Pulau Padang’s peatlands store millions of tons of carbon and are home to endangered species and communities that depend on these forests for their livelihoods. You could also say the island itself is endangered: decaying peat causes the low-lying island to subside, and scientists warn that if no action is taken, Padang may very well be under sea level and useless for any type of cultivation by 2050.

APRIL’s forest policy itself is rife with loopholes and allows APRIL to continue slashing natural forests in its concessions through December and source rainforest fiber until 2020. Yet the company’s refusal to uphold even its weak policy commitments brings APRIL’s intentions entirely into doubt. In addition to the Pulau Padang case, earlier this year, APRIL suppliers were caught clearing natural forests on legally protected peat land in Borneo and high conservation value forest on peat land in Riau. In the latter case, not only were internationally protected ramin trees cut down, but APRIL supplier PT Triomas allegedly attempted to hide the evidence by burying the contraband logs.

There is mounting recognition that APRIL’s policy and actions are insufficient and not credible. Last Friday, RAN and an international collation of allies co-authored a letter highlighting the severe shortcomings in APRIL’s policies, such as the lack of a moratorium on natural forest and peat land conversion, unclear commitments on resolving social conflicts, and the policy’s narrow scope, which does not extend to cover APRIL’s sister companies within owner Sukanto Tanoto’s rogue cartel of companies, such as Toba Pulp Lestari, Sateri, and Asian Agri. The letter also points to the inadequacy and questionable credibility of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) APRIL set up to help develop, implement, and monitor the forest policy in a transparent and independent manner.

APRIL’s new policy and the SAC risk being nothing but a parade of environmental lip service built on teetering scaffolds of environmental destruction, social conflict, and corruption. Customers and financiers must cut ties with APRIL and other companies owned by Sukanto Tanoto and pressure APRIL to end rainforest clearing and respect community rights.

TAKE ACTION: Tell APRIL owner Sukanto Tanoto to stop pulping Pulau Padang’s rainforests.

First Reported RSPO Certified Palm Oil in North America

Last week, a huge milestone for the palm oil industry went largely unnoticed: The first ever batch of 100% Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified, segregated palm oil made it’s way into North America, arriving at a New Orleans port and destined for the supply chains of various U.S. companies. According to news sources, the oil "will be offered to the market as certified, mass balance oil with first deliveries of certified oil to customers" beginning next month. This is significant because until last week, there was no RSPO-certified, segregated palm oil available anywhere in the North American market. It wasn’t until November 2008 that the first batch of ec0-stamped palm oil became available in Europe, which marked the first time ever, anywhere, that palm oil was planted, grown, harvested, processed and transported “responsibly.” [caption id="attachment_11882" align="alignright" width="540" caption="What on Earth is Sustainable Palm Oil?"][/caption] But before we pull out our party hats and the palm oil-laden Newman O’s, let’s look deeper into what this actually means. IOI is the company responsible for the above-mentioned task of getting an RSPO certified batch of palm oil all the way from one of its many plantations (this one in Sabah, Malaysia) through their supply chain and to North America. But even though this particular batch may have received the green stamp of certification from the RSPO, IOI has been the target of community pressure and claims by NGOs that the company should not be able to use the RSPO’s certification stamp for any of their palm oil until they can resolve the social conflict going on in their palm oil concessions. [caption id="attachment_11883" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Indonesia Village Children. Photo Andras Jancsik"][/caption] Other than IOI's claim to fame for RSPO certification, the company has not received any gold stars for being a sustainable company. According to a damning report released by Grassroots in November 2010, investigators discovered the company was occupying and encroaching on traditional community-owned land, jeopardizing nearby village water with weed killers and agrochemicals, and providing unsafe housing conditions. The discovery of an important village grave site being used by foreign workers to bury deceased on community land is also troubling, as are the instances of land clearance without community consultation, and the absence of a Social Impact Assessment or a High Conservation Value assessment. IOI-Loders Croklaan was also the first company to offer RSPO certified segregated palm oil in Europe on a large scale in April, 2010. In response to the first small shipment of palm oil certified under the RSPO to Europe in 2008, Wetlands International criticized the RSPO’s credentials, warning that the batch of certified palm oil originated from a plantation which grew palm oil on peatlands, a carbon-rich ecosystem that releases massive amounts of C02 when cleared, drained, and converted for agricultural use according to Mongabay. They astutely point out that the RSPO fails to account for greenhouse gas emissions in its certification process. This largely brings into question the true significance of the first RSPO-certified palm oil brought into both Europe and North America. Can palm oil be certified “sustainable” when the RSPO refuses to limit greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released when peatlands are drained to plant palm oil? In taking a deeper look at the extent of IOI's documented land and social conflicts, can we really trust the green stamp on IOI's "certified sustainable" palm oil? And can we really support such a certification mechanism that has blatant omissions of criteria such as those necessary to monitor climate change?

Some Notes On the New GAR Policy and Implementation

[caption id="attachment_11857" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The West Kalimantan province of Borneo, Indonesia. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images"]The West Kalimantan province of Borneo, Indonesia. Photograph: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images[/caption] As we applaud the new forest conservation policy announced by Sinar Mas subsidiary Golden Agri Resources, it's important to remember that the big challenge facing palm oil traders like Cargill, watchdog groups, and international customers is to make sure that GAR’s promises to protect Indonesian rainforests on paper are turned into real change on the ground. The Tropical Forest Trust, which will be working as consultants with GAR on this, will certainly have their hands full. Key to building confidence with stakeholders  will be high transparency and regular independently-verified and robust reporting throughout 2011 and beyond that demonstrates if GAR is in actual conformance with their policy goals or not. GAR is not known for following through on its commitments and it has failed to follow RSPO criteria where required in the past. An independent audit in 2010 found numerous problems and serious violations of many GAR commitments, leading to the first ever censure of a member by the RSPO. GAR's business plan, meanwhile, calls for continued expansion by 40-50,000 hectares a year of its current 435,000 ha palm oil plantation estate in Indonesia. GAR has stated that it does not believe the new conservation agreement will have any material impact on its business. Indonesian government figures calculate the area of degraded and deforested lands in Indonesia that could be planted to palm oil as up to twice the size of the total area in the country currently under palm oil production. Clearly implementing a no deforestation and peatland expansion policy is feasible, even by palm oil companies with ambitious expansion plans. Nonetheless, GAR’s ongoing palm oil expansion will need to be closely monitored both in terms of how degraded lands are selected for planting and the potential for social conflict in cases where these “degraded lands” in fact are being used to meet basic livelihood needs of local communities. GAR also just announced it will invest $500 million to build two new crude palm oil refining plants in Indonesia with 740,000 tons capacity per year, which will be on top of the one million tons per year plus that it is processing in its three current plants. About 30% of the palm oil it crushes comes from third party growers. Like Cargill, therefore, the impacts of GAR’s palm oil business encompass two roles: as plantation grower and as purchaser, processor and trader of palm oil. In this latter role, it is important that GAR, like Cargill and other major palm oil traders, move to clean up its supply chains if it is to effect the system-wide change in palm oil production practices it claims it wants to promote. GAR is considering investments in palm oil plantation expansion projects in other countries as well, including a $1.6 billion joint venture involving a 200,000 ha palm oil expansion project in Africa. GAR should apply its rainforest conservation policy across all its plantation operations and expansion plans wherever they occur, not just in Indonesia.

Habitat for Humanity Should Cut its Ties with Asia Pulp and Paper

[caption id="attachment_11238" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is Indonesia's largest paper company and the fourth largest in the world. The clearing of rainforests and draining of peatlands in Indonesia has become a huge source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it is largely driven by the pulp and paper industry."]APP logging truck[/caption] It’s disappointing that Habitat for Humanity — a group I have a lot of admiration for — didn’t do its homework before partnering with Indonesia’s most destructive pulp and paper company, Asia Pulp and Paper. Not only is Habitat getting used to fuel APP's massive PR machine, but Habitat is soiling its own reputation and contradicting its values of integrity, upholding human rights, and addressing poverty by associating with a company that regularly bends the truth, undermines rights and grabs community land and livelihoods. And this is not even to mention the immense negative impacts APP’s operations are having on Indonesia’s  forests, biodiversity and the climate. (The amount of carbon emissions resulting from APP's operations is a subject the company has been thoroughly duplicitous about in the past -- read our report in which we set the record straight about APP's "hidden" emissions.) From Scholastic and the Gucci Group to Office Depot and Staples, those companies that have looked into APP’s record and performance have seen fit to sever ties with the company. RAN urges Habitat for Humanity to research just who it’s dealing with in partnering with the likes of APP, and to find another partner that is consistent with its noble humanitarian mission.

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