Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Joint effort on Indonesian rainforest pays off

After years of campaigning by Indonesian and international environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the largest paper company in Asia, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has announced a new Forest Conservation Policy which - among other commitments - extends an immediate moratorium on logging in natural forests to all its suppliers.

The controversial paper company was blamed for causing the destruction of up to two million hectares of rainforests in Sumatra, threatening the last habitat of the Sumatran tiger, displacing local communities and causing conflicts and fatalities, and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases by converting peatland forests into plantations. Sergio Baffoni of the European Environmental Paper Network (EEPN) said, "It is great to see that the joint effort of many NGOs in Indonesia, Europe and elsewhere, has finally opened the way for a solution. It is difficult to say now if this announcement will really bring about a solution; only its implementation in the field will prove that. Meanwhile we advise companies to keep avoiding any business with APP.

"Unfortunately, APP has a long history of making commitments to WWF, customers and other stakeholders that it has failed to live up to. We hope this time the company does what it promised." commented Nazir Foead of WWF Indonesia.

"APP will not be seen as a responsible company in the marketplace until its new commitments are implemented and resolve the devastating rainforest and human rights crises it has caused in Indonesia." added Lafcadio Cortesi, of Rainforest Action Network.

Even Greenpeace, which negotiated with APP, and hailed the announcement as a major breakthrough in protection for Indonesia’s remaining rain forests, still seems to be cautious: "It’s what happens in the forest that counts and we will be monitoring progress closely, " said Bustar Maitar, of Geenpeace Indonesia.

APP has also committed to work with indigenous communities to protect their traditional lands, to ensure that all affected communities give Fully and Prior Informed Consent to changes in land use and that the legacy of social conflicts are resolved. It has also agreed to protect forested peatland.

APP, which is part of the Sinar Mas conglomerate, is now the third-largest and pulp and paper company in the world, a position achieved by clear-cutting precious Indonesian rainforests. By declaring that it now has sufficient plantation areas to meet the long term demand for their own pulp mills, it admits it has now cleared all the land it needs for plantations. The company has clearly recognised that its bad reputation is an obstacle to expansion of the market for its products and to finding investors for new projects, and this has led to the new forest policy.

There is however a further risk in this process: if the new policy will gain APP access to markets and investors, this will result in a further increase in demand for productivity. The company is already seeking investors to build new mills, including a new pulp mill in South Sumatra with a productivity of two millions tons of pulp per year, which would make it the biggest production line in the world. Sergio Baffoni said, "Ironically, if the new APP forest policy sends a positive message to investors and the mill goes ahead, this could represent the major threat to the policy's implementation, by increasing its need for wood fibers, and thus tempting APP to breach its own commitments." More than 60 NGOs recently wrote an open letter to investors warning of the risks of investment in this new mill.

Friday, February 01, 2013

HarperCollins prohibits sourcing from Indonesian tropical rainforests

HarperCollins' recent public commitment to no longer source paper connected to endangered rainforests signifies a fundamental, sector-wide shift in the US publishing industry. This move by HarperCollins is on the heels of a major announcement in October by Disney, which released a comprehensive global paper policy covering the company’s vast array of businesses and licensees.

Over the last months, the top ten publishers in the country, including Hachette Book Group, Pearson, and Simon & Schuster, agreed to adopt commitments to stop buying paper connected to the loss of Indonesian rainforests.

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) together produce upwards of 80 percent of Indonesia’s pulp and paper, and are the main source of both MTH and acacia pulp found in the global marketplace. Both companies are responsible for widespread deforestation and displacement of forest communities from their land. Habitat destruction by these companies is a leading threat to the survival of the Sumatran tiger, of which scientists estimate only a few hundred remain.

Just over two years ago, independent fiber tests revealed paper linked to Indonesian rainforest destruction in books sold by nearly all top American publishers. In December of 2012, independent forensic fiber tests, commissioned by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), revealed significant quantities of Mixed Tropical Hardwood (MTH) and acacia fiber in the paper of some of HarperCollins’ best selling books. Following the release of these results, HarperCollins has become the latest top publisher to update its paper policy, stating that it “prohibits sourcing from Indonesian tropical rainforests, old growth and/or endangered forests for [its] products, and has instituted a program of random fiber testing of books to ensure [its] product is free of tropical hardwood fiber.”

“All of the top ten US publishers in the country now recognize that customers will not accept books with paper that comes from the destruction of endangered rainforests. This is a seismic shift in an industry that just two years ago was rife with controversial paper,” said Robin Averbeck, a Forest Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, which has been working with publishers on this shift. “US publishers are sending a loud and clear message to forest destroying paper companies like Asia Pulp and Paper and APRIL that consumers are demanding rainforest safe paper.”

Rainforest Action Network first alerted the US publishing industry to problems in its paper supply chains in May of 2010 with a report titled Turning the Page on Rainforest Destruction: Children’s books and the future of Indonesia’s rainforests.

“While the real impact of HarperCollins’ commitments will be determined by their implementation, Rainforest Action Network is encouraged that the company has joined its publishing peers by prohibiting the use of paper sourced from Indonesia’s endangered rainforests.”

Indonesia is home to some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world but it also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation. The Indonesian government estimates that more than a million hectares of rainforests are being cleared every year. Logging for pulp, along with the expansion of palm oil plantations, is a leading driver of this destruction. Indonesia is now listed as the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, after the US and China. An estimated eighty per cent of its emissions come from the conversion of peatlands and other natural forests.