Indonesian paper giant APP says it wants to change, but, given its track record, the company must prove itself before it can be trusted as a supplier of pulp and paper products. Unfortunately, APP’s four-month-old commitment to stop destroying Indonesia’s rainforests has already been called into question.
WWF Indonesia recently published an open letter to APP’s CEO Linda Widjaja that raises concerns related to documented rainforest logging in APP supplier concessions. The logging is a breach of the paper giant’s public commitment not to clear rainforests starting February 1, 2013. As the story comes to light, it appears that APP may have been misleading paper buyers and the public about what it was actually doing.
This video evidence of APP timber supplier PT Riau Indo Agropalma clearing natural forest in a peat area where APP pledged to impose a moratorium on rainforest clearance was released by Eyes on the Forest:
In response to this evidence of clearing in violation of its highly publicized moratorium on logging, APP has claimed that the area is an “exclusion area” that it had failed to disclose. APP’s admission that it has been clearing rainforests even as it has been telling the world otherwise puts the credibility of the company’s entire “Forest Conservation Policy” (PDF) in doubt.
Ongoing rainforest clearance by APP is a major cause for concern for Rainforest Action Network and many others. We want APP to succeed in its commitments, but to do so it must implement them earnestly and effectively. APP must stop logging rainforests and expanding on peatlands immediately. The company must address its legacy of deforestation and human rights violations, must start protecting and restoring High Conservation and High Carbon Value areas, and must work to resolve and prevent land conflicts while agreeing to remedies with communities that have been adversely impacted by APP and its suppliers.
It’s not just local rainforest communities and wildlife that are impacted by the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. Since its founding, APP has cleared and pulped an area of Indonesian rainforest almost the size of Massachusetts. By cutting down forests and degrading peatland, APP spewed an estimated 67 million to 86 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2006 alone, putting APP’s annual emissions ahead of those of 165 countries. APP’s forest-clearing operations are contributing a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, and that will affect us all.
This latest revelation about APP clearing rainforest demonstrates that there is still significant risk for consumer companies and investors in associating with APP before the company has proven, through actions, that it is environmentally and socially acceptable. APP’s misleading claims also call into question the trust that can be placed in the company. A clear set of performance targets and milestones is needed so that APP can be held accountable to implementing its commitments before buyers consider renewed purchasing.
Large corporate paper buyers around the world have sent a strong message that it is no longer acceptable to pulp rainforests or inflame land conflicts as the “hidden” cost for the paper they buy. Now that APP has come to the table to reform its bad practices, paper buyers must insist on transparency, honesty and independent verification, not just another round of sweet-sounding promises.