We don’t get to do this as often as we would like. Today, we get to share some good news with you. Thanks to your hard work and support over the past four years, the world’s top publishers are moving in the right direction when it comes to eliminating rainforest destruction, human rights violations, and species extinction from their supply chains.
We’re publishing A New Chapter for the Publishing Industry: Putting Promises into Practice today, which outlines the shift in the entire sector as the implementation of publishers’ Indonesian forest commitments proceeds. Given the progress that publishers have undertaken in the last four years (since our 2010 report), we can confidently say that you have successfully prodded the 10 biggest publishers—and hence the whole industry—in the right direction. Click here to read the new report.
To really illustrate the point, we are pleased to tell you about two recently announced paper policies from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Macmillan. These policies go farther, in many ways, than past commitments from other companies. They demonstrate a new level of thoughtfulness and attention to detail—and a fierce commitment to eliminating controversial fiber and suppliers in order to protect the forests facing the greatest threats. Over the last four years, RAN has worked closely with publishers to develop and innovate the best practices for eliminating controversial fiber and suppliers from supply chains, and verifying and implementing forest commitments. What has emerged is a set of best practices (spelled out in the report) that could guide companies--not just in paper but in many forest commodities--in tracing their supply chains and protecting forests in the process. Of course, there’s still work to be done.
In order to translate this work to change on the ground, publishers should urge all of their supply chain partners to develop and implement strong, comprehensive paper policies. And, in particular, all companies should either stop buying (or maintain their no-buy stance) on controversial Indonesian pulp and paper giant APRIL and all affiliated companies.
Of course, this transformative work would never have been possible without you. While much of this work has happened behind the scenes, you were with us every step of the way through your commitment to RAN and its work.
Last week the former governor of Riau province in Sumatra, the epicenter of deforestation in Indonesia, was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Indonesia’s anti corruption court for taking bribes for illegally issuing logging permits to nine suppliers of APRIL’s Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper and APP’s Indah Kiat mills. This conviction follows similar convictions of Riau’s Palalawan and Siak district regents (Bupatis).
This week a diverse and influential civil society network called the “anti forest-mafia coalition” released an in depth and ground breaking analysis of the Indonesian “Forest Legality Verification System” (SVLK) finding flaws in the SVLK standard and its application and detailing sweeping changes required for the system to be credible and contribute to improved forest governance in Indonesia.
The SVLK timber legality assurance system comes out of an agreement between the EU and Indonesian governments aimed at improving forest governance and ensuring that Indonesian forest products are produced, harvested and shipped in compliance with the laws and regulations of Indonesia. SLVK certification is intended to assure forest products (wood, paper, etc.) customers and trading partner governments that products are legal and to secure access to foreign markets. In Europe, the intention is that SVLK certified products gain automatic access to the market. In the US, SVLK certification will not provide a guarantee that forest products imported into the US will meet the requirements of the Lacey Act.
Nevertheless, Indonesian forest product companies like APRIL and their customers are already promoting their SVLK certification and hoping that SVLK will fulfill the due diligence requirements of the Lacey Act. However, given systemic governance problems and recent revelations from Indonesia, such assertions are premature. In fact, the anti forest-mafia coalition’s report, and the long list of forest crime cases being considered by Indonesia’s Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) suggests that the Riau former governor’s crimes are just the tip of the iceberg. The Riau convictions and the anti forest-mafia coalition’s report are a wake up call for governments, customers and investors alike. Forest governance in Indonesia and the SVLK certification system still have a long way to go before they can provide confidence in the rule of law or any assurance that it is being implemented and enforced.
The message to customers, investors and importing governments in the EU, Japan, China, the US and around the world is that Indonesian forest products are rife with legal risks and links to corruption and that the current SVLK system does not provide adequate assurance that products are legal or produced in an environmentally or socially responsible manner.
The message to the Indonesian government and producers is that they must tackle corruption, improve forest governance, laws and enforcement and revamp the SVLK standard and its implementation if they are to be trusted and preferred in the international marketplace.
Encouragingly, there is good news that Indonesians and the international community alike can take heart in and support amidst these sobering reports.
First, the Riau prosecutions themselves demonstrate the importance and success of Indonesia’s Anti Corruption Commission (KPK), an institution that is repeatedly demonstrating its integrity, veracity and worth in the face of significant opposition from many powerful interests that it threatens. And second, last week, perhaps the nation’s most well known and important political reformer for clean and improved government and the rule of law, Joko Widodo (or Jokowi as most know him), officially announced his candidacy as presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in July.
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An Open Letter From RAN: What Do APP’s New Commitments on Forests, Peatlands and Community Rights Mean for Buyers and Investors?
To Whom It May Concern, On February 5 Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), the largest paper company in Indonesia and the third largest in the world, announced a new “Forest Conservation Policy” to undertake environmental and social reforms to its business practices. APP has become notorious in international markets for the exceptionally negative environmental, climate and human rights footprints of its operations. The APP announcement is a testament to the positive collective impact that the actions of almost 100 international corporate customers, including Disney, Staples and Mattel, have had by refusing to purchase papers linked to tropical deforestation, land and social conflicts with local communities and human rights violations. RAN welcomes APP’s new rainforest commitments as an important milestone. It includes commitments related to peatlands, engagement with local communities, and protection of high conservation value areas and high carbon stock forests. APP’s commitments, which went into effect February 1, apply to both lands controlled directly by the company and lands controlled by their suppliers – about half of APP’s paper fiber comes from ‘independent’ suppliers, including fiber from the clearing of rainforests and drainage of peatlands. The company says it will defer clearing and conversion of natural forests and carbon-rich peatlands while conservation and carbon values are assessed. It is still uncertain when the deferred logging will resume and whether the company will stop the use of natural tropical rainforest fiber in all of their mills. In addition, the commitment acknowledges the company’s problems associated with land conflict, and recognizes that indigenous and local communities may have customary rights to land that APP would like to use for its pulp plantations. The company must now work with stakeholders to develop, announce and meet detailed implementation plans including performance targets, benchmarks and timetables related to their environmental and social promises. It must also put in place transparent systems for independent monitoring, reporting and verification of its implementation plans. APP’s new commitment is just the starting point, not the finish line. The hidden story here is the controversial paper giant’s long and deep history of broken promises, land conflicts and human rights violations across its operations. The lesson learned again and again is the essential importance of clear measurable implementation measures and mechanisms, implemented in close cooperation with key stakeholders, including NGOs, and confirmed by credible, independent verification. It is still too early to say if APP’s latest commitments will bear fruit, as we all hope they will, or withers on the vine as has happened too consistently in the past. For potential buyers of APP products and investors in the company, the key take away is that APP should not be seen as a responsible company in the marketplace and companies should not consider doing business with APP or its affiliates until independent verification confirms that APP’s new commitments have been implemented and that it is constructively resolving the devastating rainforest and human rights crises it has caused in Indonesia. More information on the APP announcement and specific social and environmental challenges the company is facing can be found in this statement on our website. Sincerely, Lafcadio Cortesi, Asia Director and Robin Averbeck, Forest Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
At a general level, we urge that APP inform its direct (“owned”) and indirect (“independent”) suppliers that it will stop purchasing from any suppliers that: • Do not respect the rights of affected communities to the ownership and control of their titled and customary lands and to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to proposed developments on their lands as expressed through their own freely chosen representatives; • Have failed to resolve social conflict and human rights violations with affected communities to the mutual satisfaction of affected parties; • Evict communities with land claims in concessions and consider CSR activities as adequate and final resolution of conflicts • Do not place a moratorium on logging and natural forest clearance until High Conservation Values have been identified and maintained, and; • Continue to clear and drain areas of peat soil or convert High Carbon Stock ForestRAN has been working with leading businesses, civil society and local communities to get APP—which is one of the two biggest pulp and paper companies operating in Indonesia, along with Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL)—to own up to and change how it does business, and it must do so before going forward with its expansion plans. APP could use its position in the industry to effect real and positive change, which is exactly what we're urging the company to do:
We ask that APP inform its suppliers that it will only be able to purchase wood from them if they follow the same human rights and environmental commitments that we suggest APP take on itself.You can download the letter as as PDF, or read it here: