Lack of outcomes and legacy of environmental destruction, social conflict and murky corporate governance requires ongoing scrutiny and independent verification of progress
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2016
CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, 425.281.1989
San Francisco, CA - On February 4th, the pulp and paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) marked the third anniversary of its landmark Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) with positive reports about its progress on improved forest and peatland management, land conflict and social issues, and landscape conservation and restoration.
However, the lack of improved outcomes on the ground for local communities, forests and peatlands and forest governance belies APP’s narrative that it has turned itself around and deserves to be rewarded.
Lafcadio Cortesi, Rainforest Action Network’s Asia Director, said,
“The legacy of twenty years of rogue operations is taking more time to address than APP wants paper buyers, investors, governments and industry watchers to know about.
“The company’s track record, and our experience over the past year, suggest that APP’s efforts will require a medium to long term time horizon to address the structural and practical changes required to achieve improved outcomes on the ground.”
Several events in 2015 coupled with ongoing land conflict issues demonstrate the immense challenges confronting APP and the long journey the company still must travel in order to remedy its history of harm and move away from being considered a controversial supplier:
On 28 February 2015, Indra Pelani, a 22 year old community leader and farmers union organizer who was involved in a land dispute with APP subsidiary Wirakarya Sakti (PT WKS) was detained and beaten to death by company security guards in Jambi province.
Several months later toxic smoke and haze from out of control fires caused a public health crisis and had crippling social and economic impacts in Indonesia and across the region. Despite legal obligations to manage fires, APP and suppliers experienced far more fires inside their concession areas than other companies or groups and have been subject to legal action and boycotts by governments, civil society and Singaporean supermarkets.
In August, APP made the admirable commitment to set aside of 7,000 ha of peatlands for restoration in Riau and South Sumatra. And though the company reported the construction of more than 4,000 dams in November, the area still represents less than 1 percent of APP’s holdings in peatlands.
“Due in large part to a failure to adequately identify, delineate and set aside indigenous and community lands and land claims, APP has a continuing legacy of social conflict and inequity across its concessions. An evaluation of the company’s progress in implementing its commitments published by the Rainforest Alliance in 2015 found that several hundred social conflicts remain in APP concessions,” said Cortesi.
“APP has developed a system to inventory, classify and prioritize conflicts and is working with consultants to develop and implement action plans to resolve them. Yet the veracity and effectiveness of this system remain in doubt. APP has not disclosed the content of the action plans and has pushed back on suggestions from civil society that the development of such plans must ensure that communities’ chosen representatives are involved in plan development and that access to independent information and expert legal, financial, and other advice must be available to communities.
“It is still unclear whether this system has led to resolution of specific conflicts. And, even in the handful of conflict resolution cases that have involved third party mediation and civil society, a host of complaints have been lodged and irregularities been found.
“Despite these concerns, APP is expanding its pulp and paper production capacity with its Oki Mill complex––projected to be among the world’s largest––in South Sumatra. It is of grave concern that APP is moving forward with this project prior to addressing the host of challenges that it is facing in existing operations and prior to demonstrating that it has sufficient long term wood supply for the project.
“These events and findings paint a picture of a company with a long way to go before it may be considered even a non-controversial company, let alone a socially and environmentally responsible one.
“Considering the ongoing reputational and material risks associated with doing business with APP, the company’s approach to defining its own targets and priorities and asking stakeholders to take its word that it’s making progress is not sufficient. There is an urgent need for third parties to set independent, outcome based evaluation criteria for the company’s performance and to establish and carry out independent monitoring and verification procedures using these criteria.