in Indonesia

Greenpeace investigation shows that Asia Pulp and Paper is pulping tiger habitat

A year-long investigation by Greenpeace reveals that Asia Pulp and Paper is pulping ramin trees to produce paper. In 2001, Indonesia banned the logging of ramin trees. Ramin is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be exported without special permits.

Greenpeace filmed undercover in APP’s Indah Kiat pulp mill in Perawang, Sumatra where they found hundreds of thousands of rainforest logs, including ramin logs, waiting to be pulped. Much of this timber comes from the peat swamp forests that are home to Sumatran tigers. Greenpeace took samples of the timber to the Institute of Wood Technology and Wood Biology at the University of Hamburg, where Dr. Gerald Koch confirmed that 46 of the 59 samples were ramin.

Greenpeace produced a short film of its investigations:

WWF is also campaigning against APP’s destructive pulp and paper operations. A recent report from WWF, titled, “Don’t Flush Tiger Forests” (pdf file, 9.6 MB), documents how two toilet tissue brands, Paseo and Livi, source their fibre from APP and are therefore complicit in the destruction of Sumatra’s forests. In the report, WWF states that,

“APP oversees the largest commercial deforestation operation in Sumatra. Since APP started operating in Sumatra in 1984, the company is estimated to have pulped nearly 5 million acres of forests.”

In the 1990s, APP stated (pdf file, 1.3 MB) that by 2004 “substantially all” of the raw material supplying its Indah Kiat pulp mill would come from plantations. Obviously, that didn’t happen so APP moved its “100% plantation” deadline back to 2007. In 2007, in its “Environment Report” (pdf file, 5.1 MB), APP quietly moved the deadline back to 2009. And the Indonesian government joined in the game. At an “APP Sustainability Seminar” (yes, you read that correctly), Koes Saparyadi, Senior Advisor on Legal Cases of the Forestry Minister of the Republic of Indonesia delivered a message from the Minister of Forests. He said that,

“The Government of Indonesia is committed to the sustainability and long-term viability of its forests. We are committed to alleviating the pressure on our natural forests by requiring that all of Indonesia’s pulp and paper companies be 100% reliant on plantation grown wood by end of 2009.”

Obviously, the Ministry of Forestry did precisely nothing to enusre that APP actually complied with this requirement and there was no penalty when the company failed to do so. In 2011, Aida Greenbury, APP’s Managing Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations, pushed the deadline back still further. She wrote that “In five years, we are aiming for 100 per cent being sourced from our own plantations.”

In response to Greenpeace’s investigations, APP, of course, denies any wrongdoing:

“Asia Pulp & Paper group (APP) maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy for illegal wood entering the supply chain and has comprehensive chain of custody systems to ensure that only legal wood enters its pulp mill operations.”

A couple of years ago, I tried to find out more about APP’s “comprehensive chain of custody systems”. APP hires a company called SGS to carry out audits, so, in January 2010, I wrote to SGS to request (amongst other things) copies of SGS’s Audit Statements. Predictably, I didn’t get any copies of the Audit Statements. But on 8 February 2010, Gerrit Marais, Qualifor Programme Director at SGS, wrote to tell me that,

“VLO [verification of legal origin] audits are carried out by qualified auditors, using a predefined checklist and the certificate holder is informed beforehand of the audit dates. For chain of custody evaluations, auditors use both on site inspections, interviews with staff and workers and document review to check compliance with the standard.”

One Audit Statement is publicly available, on page 134 of APP’s 2007 “Environmental and Social Sustainability Report” (pdf file 6.1 MB). Here it is (click on the image for a larger version):

SGS’s Audit Statement explains that “no evidence of any illegal material entering the current supply system was found”. Of course, given the fact that SGS informs APP before it carries out its inspections of APP operations, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that SGS failed to uncover anything illegal. But there’s a very interesting notice at the end of the Audit Statement:

“This statement is valid for the time of the audit and does not represent an ongoing verification. It does not represent a certificate of legality…”

Which presumably means that APP should not be using SGS’s Audit Statements as proof of legality.

APP gets support from some strange sources these days. In addition to a major PR campaign that includes adverts on CNN and SkyTV, APP is working with Carbon Conservation, an Australian carbon trading firm. In April 2011, Dorjee Sun, the CEO of Carbon Conservation, announced “a new partnership between APP and Carbon Conservation to design a sustainability roadmap to 2020, which will make APP one of the most sustainable paper companies in the world”.

In an interview shortly after this announcement Dorjee Sun explained that,

“Our job now is to work with them [APP] over the next ten years. Because what you’ve got to realise is that corporations, in order to change really take time. You know, you’re changing the fundamentals of an economy and . . . that takes time. So we are creating a milestones roadmap.”

But before helping APP create another milestone littered roadmap, Dorjee Sun needs to take a look at where APP came from. If he does, he’ll find plenty of milestones (in 2004, 2007, 2009, for example) that the company has bulldozed its way through.

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  1. The loggers need more training in what trees to cut down. When ramin logs are brought in, they are identified and stored as wood that cannot be used. I am very surprised the Greenpeace did not know that. You can not blame APP for this, but they should tell the mills to train the loggers better.

  2. Here’s a suggestion: why don’t we all use SGS’s verification reports and certificates as toilet paper, instead of using APP’s purpose-made products?

  3. @ChrisLang The new mill is to use the plantations that APP has planted in the area. Make your mind up. What do you want? (APP and APRIL plant over a million trees a day as part of their sustainability programmes.) Also, you shouldn’t really call it APP’s log yard. But you can call it a supplier of APP. There is a difference. The government, the forest industry and people like Greenpeace need to get together to ensure all their aims are met when the licences are handed out. If Greenpeace keep talking about tigers and inventing stuff for their followers, they will lose their place at that table – if they haven’t already.

  4. @DonKD – I’m sure that Greenpeace is fully aware that APP is supposed to identify illegally logged timber and store it as wood that cannot be used. APP has systematically clearcut a vast area of Sumatra’s forests. Since the 1990s the company has been promising that it will only use wood from plantations. It is still clearing forests. I’m staggered that anyone can say that APP is not to blame when the logs were found in APP’s log yard. Even if APP took up your suggestion and ran training sessions for its loggers I’m sure that this would have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the rate of deforestation in Riau and Jambi provinces. Because the problem is not whether the loggers are trained or not. The problem is that Indah Kiat is an enormous pulp mill with an insatiable demand for raw material – that cannot be met from APP’s plantations.

    Meanwhile APP is planning to expand its operations in Sumatra by building a new pulp mill. With a capacity of between 1.5 and 2 million tonnes a year, that would make it one of the largest pulp mills in the world.

  5. I’m delighted to be able to report that the Ministry of Forestry is on the case. Unfortunately, Greenpeace sent the wood samples to a laboratory in Hamburg for testing rather than to the Ministry of Forestry. Apparently reports and photos don’t count:

    Forestry Ministry’s director general of forest protection and conservation, Darori, confirmed that officials received the complaints from Greenpeace.

    “We applaud Greenpeace for informing us about APP allegedly illegally trading ramin because the company doesn’t have a permit to do so. However, it will be very difficult to verify the report as Greenpeace did not give us the actual proof, such as samples of the ramin. They only gave us written report and photos,” he told The Jakarta Post.

    Jakarta Post, “Greenpeace accuses paper giant of illegal logging”, 2 March 2012.

  6. @DonKD – APP does not have enough raw material from plantations to supply its existing pulp mills. That’s why it continues to pulp rainforests. This has been a problem ever since APP’s Indah Kiat mill started operations in the 1990s.

    APP and APRIL’s tree planting activities are nothing to do with what you quaintly call their “sustainability programmes”. They are planting fast-growing tree monocultures to supply raw material to their pulp millsm while continuing to clear forests. Bill Laurance, a forest scientist with James Cook University in Australia, describes APRIL’s operations as “Ecological armaggedon”.

    Technically, you are correct to say that it’s not APP’s log yard. But that’s because the corporate structure of APP is like a spider’s web. Here’s an attempt at explaining the company structure from a 2006 CIFOR report:

    I’ll ignore the bit about forest licences because it doesn’t resemble anything that happens in any part of the known universe.

    Just out of curiosity, what’s your connection to APP?

  7. My area is critical thinking and how personal biases affect judgement. This subject is a goldmine of material. This is great stuff. Keep it coming. I’m using it all in my thesis. I love the way you cite old detail to make your point. That’s a classic sign of bias. I didn’t expect such a vivid example so soon. I love the irrelevant diagram too.

    I’m not quite sure how you get to this: APP and APRIL’s tree planting activities are nothing to do with what you quaintly call their “sustainability programmes”.

    How you can ignore over 1 million trees A DAY is also “quaint”. I think you should reformat your c drive, sunbeam, and start again. You’re so biased, your contributions to this argument are next to worthless. You need to come back towards the middle a little, otherwise you’re in danger of being ignored even more. You’ve made my weekend.

  8. @DonDK – You seem to be your own best example when examining how bias affects personal judgement.

    Promoting 1 million trees and mills using plantation stock all sounds very nice, but when the proponent of these claims is also responsible for the very clearance of natural forest in these areas it devalues them, and leaves the door open to being attacked for the ongoing destruction of natural ecosystems.

    I have not be able to identify a single valid contribution you have made to this thread. But please, feel free to continue.

  9. What is found in the APP greenpeace like the above report. it’s all true, and even more than that. I am telling the truth because I live in the area of ​​operation APP. You can refer directly to verify how the forest has now been destroyed. This can not be covered because there is no indisputable evidence of forest destruction in Indonesia. The government can not be expected. The government does not care, they are responsive to the report but there will be no action. All they care about money only. You do not believe the reports of how the state of forests in Indonesia now. But as soon as you see, I’m sure you’ll get proof of the truth of the report.

  10. @DonKD

    When do you expect to publish your thesis – in three or four years time maybe? – when it will consist entirely of “old detail” and therefore of no use or interest to anyone, apart from yourself.

    Keep on investigating your own navel (in an entirely unbiased way, of course), Don, whilst the rest of us get on with living in the real world and trying to do something about it.

  11. Folks – please don’t get off track in responding to DonKD. He is only a distraction who’s comments are akin to that of Rush Limbaugh’s and global warming. Taking the time to respond to the fact-less banter of someone who has little understanding of science and the irreversible impact of human action on the environment is useless. People like DonKD add little value to a discussion yet they can suck up valuable energy. He uses words like “thesis” in an effort to give himself credibility and then he tries to instigate so that he pulls the discussion further from a solution. He is a parasite who’s comments are meaningless. Ignore him and he will eventually go away.