Greenpeace and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a giant global paper supplier, are locked in a heated battle over the activist group's allegations that APP products contain fiber sourced from the destruction of forests in Indonesia. At stake is APP’s access to some of the world's most lucrative markets.
After losing several high profile customers in recent months due to the Greenpeace campaign, APP earlier this month fired back at Greenpeace in a press release that accused the activist group of making "false allegations."
The APP press release asserts that "claims by Greenpeace International that two Asia Pulp & Paper products were 'proven' to contain 'Indonesian rainforest fibre' have no scientific basis, it has been confirmed.".
APP claimed that a letter issued by Integrated Paper Services (IPS), the company that provided the testing services Greenpeace used to demonstrate the existence of mixed tropical hardwood (MTH) fiber — typically sourced from natural forests — in APP products, disproved Greenpeace's claims.
"Greenpeace based its entire global campaign against APP on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre. The company Greenpeace asked to carry out the tests has admitted this claim cannot be justified," said Aida Greenbury, APP Managing Director, in a statement.
"If there were any MTH materials in the packaging, it is highly likely (95%) that they came from recycled material. Or they came from a sustainably managed forest in another part of the world, for example South America."
But while APP is resolute in its assertions that its paper products do not contain tropical forest fiber, Greenpeace is insistent its campaign is well-supported by the facts. The green group specifically disputes points raised in APP's press release.
"APP, apparently with the support of their PR company, Cohn and Wolfe, has very deliberately misrepresented the work that IPS have undertaken for Greenpeace," said Greenpeace forest campaigner Andy Tait, in an email to mongabay.com. "The clearest example of this comes through the reference in their press release to the testing of recycled fibre content."
"Firstly, IPS was asked to test the virgin fibre component of the packaging products, a fact that was ignored. Secondly, IPS testing procedures do identify recycled fibre content if present, a fact that was also ignored. Finally APP appears to imply that IPS gave them specific information about testing for recycled fibre content, something that IPS has confirmed is not the case."
Tait added that APP's premise that Greenpeace's "entire global campaign against APP on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre" was also false.
"The conclusion that our campaign against APP is based on a single premise is ridiculous," he said. "We’ve got a mountain of evidence linking APP to rainforest destruction, starting with APP’s own documents."
"And then we have our own research. By carrying out overflights of APP concession areas we have repeatedly documented, using GPS images, large-scale rainforest clearance by APP’s suppliers. Our mappers have pinpointed deforestation in APP supplier concessions, our on-the-ground investigations have tracked the timber from these areas to APP mills, and our chain-of-custody research links the products from these mills to global brands like those in the toy sector."
"Forensic testing has also confirmed the presence of rainforest fibre (mixed tropical hardwood/ MTH) in a number of APP products that we had tested. Given that Indonesia is the only commercial scale producer of MTH for pulp, this evidence shows us that these materials indeed come from Indonesian rainforest destruction."
APP disagreed. It suggested that any presence of MTH could be attributed to contamination from recycled fiber used in other layers of toy packaging or from sources outside of Indonesia. "The testing cannot indicate presence of 'Indonesian rainforest fibre' in APP products," APP told mongabay.com. "The testing says nothing about whether the MTH fibres they claim to have found were from sustainable sources or not."
APP added that the top sheet of a multi-layered paper product could not be tested in isolation because it would not be possible to separate it from the surface of the carton stock. Furthermore, APP said, "in a finished product sample, both virgin and recycled fibers are already mixed together into the finished product as part of the production process."
Other sources cast doubt on APP's assertion that MTH would have come from other sources. "Indonesia is the only country where MTH is used in large-scale pulp production," stated Twotogether, a paper trade journal, in a 2004 analysis of the MTH market.
"As far as I know, the only mixed tropical hardwood pulp commercially available in the world comes from Indonesia," said Lafcadio Cortesi of the Rainforest Action Network, an advocacy group in the midst of a campaign to reform practices of APP and APRIL, another Indonesian pulp and paper producer. "A pulp broker I spoke with said '99 percent of MTH is from Indonesia.'"
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