Pages tagged "Toba Pulp Lestari"


Resistance in the Palm Wine Forests: Our Journey to Nagahulambo Village

We stepped out of the car, and walked to the banks of what was once the rushing Sepingan river. What we saw, instead, was dry riverbed, filled with the trunks of small eucalyptus trees which had washed down the muddy cliffs in the recent rain. This was the river that once fed the rice fields of the people of Nagahulambo village, in North Sumatra. This was just one of the impacts of the destruction of a natural forest can have on the river, and on the people who depend on it. This is the impact the the pulp and paper company Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) is having in the beautiful Toba Lake region of North Sumatra.

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I had come to North Sumatra to meet with our partners, Kelompok Studi dan Pengemangan Prakarsa Masyarakyat (KSPPM), who have been organizing with communities to fight TPL for over thirty years. At RAN, we've been partnering with KSPPM for the last year and a half, working to bring international pressure to support the rights of over 13 communities whose land and livelihoods have been destroyed for the pulp that finds its way into our clothes and paper. This was my first trip there, and – even after a decade of working to protect Indonesia's forests – I was shocked by the devastation of the forests, and by Toba Pulp Lestari's casual disregard for the rights of people who depend on the forest.

Our first stop – after a day long meeting with our NGO partner – was the TPL plantation. This was land that was traditionally owned by the Batak people of Nagahulambo and surrounding communities. They still practice traditional agriculture, harvesting the sap of the Aren palm (Arenga pinnata), which they ferment and sell as palm wine. This tree, which grows naturally in the region, is planted in between existing forest trees, and supplemented with coffee, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and other crops. It's a diverse polyculture that gives the community access to the cash economy through palm wine sales, and to food sovereignty through their farms and gardens.

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Now, however, that diverse landscape is threatened with monocrop eucalyptus trees, as far as the eye can see. TPL's plantations are over 180,000 hectares, producing over 178,626 tons of pulp in 2012. As we drove through the plantation, we saw the logs of the natural forest piled high by the saw mill – huge trees being milled into railway ties and boards for houses. Even more shocking was seeing a traditional grave – sacred to the community, and once perhaps deep in the forest – in the middle of a clear cut, right next to the sawmill. This blatant disregard for traditional cultures and the rights of the local communities didn't come as a surprise; this is how TPL has been treating the people who depended upon the forest in the area for decades.

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Our next stop was to meet with the community at Nagahulambo. When we went to the village, we were welcomed by farmers and palm wine gatherers who have lived there for generations. It's a small community – only 44 families – where almost all the men gather the sweet sap of the Aren palm to make palm wine. They took us to visit their Aren palm garden. It was only a 5 minute walk from their house, but from there we could already see the tops of the eucalyptus plantation towering not far away. They showed us how they gathered the sap – and I amused everyone by trying to climb their small bamboo ladders to the tops of the trees. I didn't make it very far. Back in the village we saw the turmeric, ginger, and coffee drying in the sun, ready to be processed by hand. Some will be sold, some will be used in the village.

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Still, this community is very poor. This community used to make use of thousands of hectares, growing and gathering food and other resources. Now there is only 153 ha left of land that has not been converted into plantations. The community is fighting TPL to get rights to 350 ha of land, including the remaining forest, and TPL is fighting back. A few months ago, Jahotman Nainggolan, one of the community leaders, was arrested on trumped up charges and was put in jail for 3 months and one week, only recently being allowed to return to his wife and baby boy.

We sat down with ten leaders of the community. They had just received a letter from the local forestry department warning them that if they don't give up rights to the last remaining piece of forest, they were going to authorize TPL to “use repressive force”. Really. TPL is so powerful in the region that the government backs up even the most egregious land grabbing and violation of community rights.

Our partners, KSPPM, talked through the letter with the community, making plans to write a strong response, and warning the community members about what to do if and when TPL comes back to the village. The villagers were strong in their commitment to protect their land, while still being scared of what was to come with TPL. It was so inspiring to see their resistance, and to see how KSPPM supports them.

I explained briefly about RAN's campaign, and told them about the support that all of RAN's members had for their fight, and about how over 10,000 had signed a petition, and had taken action in US stores. They were very happy to hear that people on the other side of the world had heard about their struggles and were taking action to support them. At that moment, I was so grateful to you – our members – for taking action and standing up for the rights of communities all over the world. You provide such an important tool against companies like TPL. Instead of just the community of Nagahulambo, along with their partner, KSPPM, holding the line against the destruction of the forest, we are pushing back on them from both directions – the international marketplace and the front lines – and for that we are so much stronger.

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Please join us in supporting the community of Nagahulambo. Our Out of Fashion campaign is holding companies responsible for sourcing from companies like TPL who are stealing the lands and the livelihoods of communities across the world. Please go to outoffashion.org to take action to today and join us in this important fight.


Part 3: Fashion and controversy

As the lavish display of Fall Fashion Week gets under way in New York City, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is announcing Out of Fashion: a campaign for forest friendly fabric.

“Out of Fashion” is our latest major effort to preserve the world’s endangered forests and we need your help to win. Add your voice here. With this campaign, RAN is bringing attention to a growing global threat to forests, animals and Indigenous communities -- a threat that has been hiding in plain sight for years: dissolving pulp. Dissolving pulp is a highly influential commodity in today’s marketplace. And the increased demand for this product is accelerating deforestation and exacerbating human rights abuses across the globe.  

Big name fashion brands are complicit in the pulping of pristine forests -- seizing Indigenous land, driving species loss, and threatening the climate -- all to manufacture a product that makes its way into the clothes we wear every day.

Over the last few days, we've introduced the campaign and how and where the fiber to produce dissolving pulp comes from in our "Introducing: Out of Fashion" piece. We've discussed how and why that dissolving pulp has become attractive to clothing manufacturers in "Part Two: Dissolving Pulp and Fashion." This, our third of the three part series, outlines what fashion can do about the problem.

Part 3: Fashion and controversy

In our second blog, we talked about how clothing companies are turning forests into fashion. In order to produce rayon, viscose and other textiles, companies source fiber through the destructive and toxic production of dissolving wood pulp, buying from suppliers who have been linked with deforestation and land grabbing. When clothing companies turn a blind eye to the impact that their fabrics have on the environment, they need to know that they are putting themselves at risk. Dissolving wood pulp is responsible for the destruction of rainforests, human rights abuses, land grabbing from Indigenous communities, the loss of habitat for endangered species and large-scale climate pollution -- and it’s time for that to stop

What can the fashion industry do about this issue?

It is imperative that the fashion industry take action to clean up its act. There are clear steps that fashion companies (including famous brands like Louis Vuitton and Guess) should take in order to eliminate rainforest destruction and human rights abuses from their clothing lines.

Step One: Map the Complete Supply Chain

The first step is for companies to trace and map their supply chains. Only by clearly mapping supply chains can companies ensure that their parent or affiliated companies, as well as their vendors and suppliers, are not involved in illegal activities, rainforest destruction, and human rights abuses.

Step Two: Get a Global Policy

Companies must develop a global forest footprint policy which contains measurable and time bound targets to eliminate controversial fiber and suppliers from their supply chains. These policies need to include hard requirements for all forest fiber, including fiber they use for bags, reports, printer paper, etc. Companies need to release this policy publicly and share it with all of their supply chain partners.

It is also important to monitor and update these policies regularly ensuring that targets and timelines remain ambitious and in line with best practices. In order to successfully protect rainforests, peatlands, climate, and biodiversity; uphold human and labor rights; and eliminate controversial forest fiber, these policies -- and the common sense and environmentally responsible values that they represent --  should take center stage within companies that purchase and use forest-sourced products.

Any policy must include targets to maximize responsible fiber (like recycled content and agricultural waste) and eliminate fiber from controversial sources.

Once the policy is in place, companies need to send a strong message, and educate supply chain partners and parent companies about the controversy associated with dissolving pulp. Apparel companies should ask supply chain partners to develop and implement similar purchasing policies, and communicate with government agencies to strengthen protection for forests and human rights on a policy level.

The last step is to verify the implementation of their policy. In order to demonstrate leadership, companies should release a time bound implementation plan and report on progress on an annual basis.

Are there companies doing the right thing?

There is already momentum for change within the industry. There are some companies who have already taken steps to eliminate controversial sources from their supply chain, and some companies also have commitments to dig into their supply chains. Their initiative on this issue demonstrates that change is possible, but we need your support to push the industry forward as a whole.

Please join us in transforming the fashion industry. It’s possible to move this industry, and with your help we can take on those yet to change. Add your voice and demand that the fashion industry as a whole move beyond rainforest destruction.

 


Part 2: Dissolving pulp and fashion

As the lavish display of Fall Fashion Week gets under way in New York City, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is announcing Out of Fashion: a campaign for forest friendly fabric.

“Out of Fashion” is our latest major effort to preserve the world’s endangered forests and we need your help to win. Add your voice here. With this campaign, RAN is bringing attention to a growing global threat to forests, animals and Indigenous communities -- a threat that has been hiding in plain sight for years: dissolving pulp.  Dissolving pulp is a highly influential commodity in today’s marketplace. And the increased demand for this product is accelerating deforestation and exacerbating human rights abuses across the globe.  

Big name fashion brands are complicit in the pulping of pristine forests -- seizing Indigenous land, driving species loss, and threatening the climate -- all to manufacture a product that makes its way into the clothes we wear every day.

Over the next few days, RAN will introduce you to this destructive industry -- and how Rainforest Action Network is planning to take it on.

Dissolving Pulp and Fashion

In our first blog, "Introducing: Out of Fashion", we introduced the threat of dissolving wood pulp and how this product makes its way out of the forest and into your closet. Dissolving pulp makes this journey disguised as rayon, viscose, and modal, fabrics used in the latest fashions from many of today’s most popular brands.

So, how do trees actually make their way into the clothes you’re wearing?

It’s a complicated process: forests are cut, then pulped into a toxic sludge or “soluble compound”. This sludge is what is known as dissolving pulp and it is produced using a wide variety of toxic chemicals including dioxin, chlorine, volatile organic compounds and adsorbable organic halides. These chemicals are known to bioaccumulate -- meaning they collect and increase in negative impact within the bodies of human beings and all living creatures. This toxic sludge is then forced through spinnerets, and becomes viscose staple fiber (VSF). The VSF is then spun into yarn, woven into fabric, sewn into garments, and then marketed by brands and sold in outlets all over the world--from luxury stores to suburban shopping malls to big box stores. That is how pristine rainforests find their way into our closets.

So, what fabrics actually contain dissolving pulp? What should you look for on the label?

This fiber goes by many names, so it’s important to check the label when looking for your next outfit. These include: rayon, viscose, Lyocell, and modal. While clothes might feel like silk or cotton, remember to double check and see if they contain rayon or these other potentially rainforest-damaging fabrics. And even if you personally are avoiding these fabrics, remember that not everybody is. That's why RAN is calling on the industry to change as a whole - and that's why we need your voice on this petition. 

Why would people actually turn precious rainforests into high-fashion apparel in the first place?

These fabrics are becoming attractive options due to the rising cost and (ironically) environmental concerns associated with cotton. Due to recent flooding and droughts, cotton crops have suffered significantly in recent years. As a response, clothing brands will even list these rainforest-destroying fabrics such as rayon  as “natural” or “renewable” textiles.

One of the most amazing things is the ubiquity of these products. From cheap clothing to high-end luxury brands, rayon and viscose are everywhere, and at every price point. Companies that use these products range from Forever 21 to Prada, from Abercrombie to Louis Vuitton--  and everyone in between. It’s critical that companies that are profiting from this destruction take responsibility for their supply chain.

In the next blog, we’ll dive into what clothing companies can do and actions you as the consumer can take to protect forests and human rights from irresponsible clothing and the expansion of the dissolving pulp market. But don’t wait - take action now to demand that your clothes are free of deforestation and human rights abuses here.


Introducing: Out of Fashion

As the lavish display of Fall Fashion Week gets under way today in New York City, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is announcing Out of Fashion: a campaign for forest friendly fabric.

“Out of Fashion” is our latest major effort to preserve the world’s endangered forests and we need your help to win. Add your voice here. With this campaign, RAN is bringing attention to a growing global threat to forests, animals and Indigenous communities -- a threat that has been hiding in plain sight for years: dissolving pulp.  Dissolving pulp is a little-discussed yet highly influential commodity in today’s marketplace. And the increased demand for this product is accelerating deforestation and exacerbating human rights abuses across the globe.  

Big name fashion brands are complicit in the pulping of pristine forests -- seizing Indigenous land, driving species loss, and threatening the climate -- all to manufacture a product that makes its way into the clothes we wear every day.

Over the next few days, RAN will introduce you to this destructive industry -- and how Rainforest Action Network is planning to take it on.

The Context

Recently, we told you about the devastating impact that the production of wood pulp by paper giant Toba Pulp Lestari is having on the communities and forests of North Sumatra. Amazingly enough, this pulp makes its way into countless everyday products, like books, office paper and packaging.

But the production of dissolving wood pulp is an equally problematic issue.  Dissolving pulp is an ingredient found in an even wider variety of products such as cosmetics, food, household product, sanitary products -- and clothing that we wear every day.

So, wait. Trees are in my clothes?

Shockingly, yes, if you are wearing rayon, viscose, modal, or tencel.  The most prevalent type of this pulp is Rayon grade pulp, which is a core component of a textile called viscose staple fiber (VSF). This is what we’ll be focusing on, since VSF represents a large market share--and the production of VSF is responsible for 90% of the dissolving pulp expansion.

This fiber can be found in blended fabrics or on its own and it has been slowly replacing cotton as a cheaper alternative. It can also be found in polyester to create a more “high-end” feel and is present in many best selling  brands.

What are the problems with dissolving pulp?

The quest for cheaply produced dissolving pulp is leaving an incredibly destructive footprint on the globe and has been a significant driver of human rights abuses, land grabbing, natural forest conversion, the development of carbon-emitting peatlands, climate change, biodiversity loss, and toxics pollution. Every year, more than 70 million trees are turned into clothing through the dissolving pulp process. And the process is almost criminally inefficient: only 30% of tree matter is actually useable for clothing. The other 70% becomes waste. With pulp mills all over the world, including in Indonesia, Canada and Brazil, the industry is diffuse and the supply chain difficult to pin down.

One of the challenges in confronting this problem is that dissolving pulp is very difficult to trace. When we launched our campaign to eliminate rainforest destruction from books and printed materials, we could perform independent fiber testing of books to determine the species of tree and country of origin. Since the production of dissolving pulp requires a much higher toxic chemical load the trees’ DNA is virtually destroyed, making it practically impossible to pinpoint the origin of the fiber. This creates an “opaque”  supply chain, one in which the companies themselves must be active and responsible in policing to avoid contamination from conflict pulp and the timber used to produce it.

What’s next? Join us on the journey to get rainforest destruction out of fashion.

Not sure if you’re wearing rainforest destruction? Go ahead and look in your closet. And definitely have a look the next time you shop--do you see rayon or viscose on the label? Beware: you could be buying rainforest destruction.

We will be telling you more about dissolving pulp in the coming weeks and how this driver of rainforest destruction is making its way into your clothes. Join us in confronting this global threat to forests and sign the petition to send a clear message to fashion companies: We want deforestation and human rights abuses out of our clothing.

 

Ready for more? Read part two of our three part series here. 


Toba Pulp Lestari: In depth on one of the worst actors in pulp and paper

Indonesian pulp and paper giant Toba Pulp Lestari has been operating recklessly in North Sumatra for years. The company's mill has been poisoning communities and disrupting life and livelihoods for the local people who call this area home. The mill, and it’s operators, are responsible for horrific land conflicts between the company and villagers who hold traditional land rights to the company’s concessions.


These communities, whose land is protected by customary rights under Indonesian law, rely on these forests for their life and livelihoods. As reported by RAN’s on-the-ground partner, Kelompok Studi dan Pengembangan Prakarsa Masyarakat, well over 17,000 hectares of natural forest have been destroyed, impacting or displacing over 13,000 Indigenous people.

These communities are fighting back, and at least 59 activists have been arrested for resisting Toba Pulp Lestari’s continued expansion and destruction. In the past few years, land conflict has only escalated between villagers and Toba Pulp Lestari employees over the forest area. Meetings with government representatives and Toba Pulp Lestari management have brought no results, and local villagers have resorted to protests and blockades of company operations in order to protect the forests.

The behavior of Toba Pulp Lestari employees shows clear disregard for the livelihoods of local people. In February 2013, local farmers from Pandumaan and Sipituhuta Villages caught Toba Pulp Lestari employees entering their forest areas and cutting down frankincense trees. Instead of apprehending those causing the destruction, resulting clashes between farmers and the employees led to the arrests of 31 farmers.

The harvest of frankincense is essential to the local economy. These communities, who have farmed this land for generations, extract the frankincense without destroying the trees in order to maintain the health of the forest and keep this vital source of income intact for future generations. When the forests are wiped out for pulp plantations, Toba Pulp Lestari destroys not only the livelihoods of the community, their childrens’ livelihoods, and the ecosystem, but it destroys their culture as well.

Local communities have opposed the mill since it began operations in North Sumatra in 1989 due to the rainforest destruction, land grabbing and toxics pollution central to the company’s business model. In 1990, 10 elderly women from Sugapa Village were arrested for pulling up and destroying eucalyptus plantings on their traditional land. Protests by the local community escalated in 1998 and temporarily shut down the mill. But in recent years, the company has changed its name from PT Inti Indorayon Utama to PT Toba Pulp Lestari and reopened the mill; it is now in the process of expanding its destructive operations further into pristine rainforest. Along with name changes, the company has changed affiliations multiple times in order to hide its destruction. The company was formerly affiliated with pulp and paper giant, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) and its parent Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), and is still controlled by notorious Indonesian business tycoon Sukanto Tanoto through holding companies.  

This may seem like a conflict far away from those of us in the Americas, Europe, or Australia, but it’s closer than one would think. A wide variety of consumer products contain pulp from rainforests like those in North Sumatra, including paper, food, cosmetics, household goods—even clothing. This pulp, and the conflict that produced it, is sold on store shelves in your neighborhood - unmarked and unidentifiable.

Unless Toba Pulp Lestari respects the rights of the Indigenous people, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), conflicts will only continue. And while Indonesia’s Constitutional Court has acknowledged the customary forest rights of the communities, Toba Pulp Lestari’s concessions and operations continue to undermine the ability of local people to access and manage their own forests.

We plan to keep you up to date on this conflict and bring more information continue to explore and expose the pulp supply chains threatening global rainforests.... stay tuned.


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.


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