Monday, April 27, 2015

Gaps in Indonesia’s forest legality verification system: paper importers at risk

Indonesia’s wood products audit and certification system remains inadequate in assuring legality, a new briefing released by rhe Raininforest Action Network finds. The briefing provides detailed recommendations about how the system can be improved to address these shortcomings. Buyers wishing to avoid products that violate community legal rights, as well as authorities charged with enforcing import legality legislation, should refrain from relying solely on the verification system for assurance that products certified by the system comply with Indonesian law.

Known as the Indonesian Timber Legality Verification System, or Sistem Verifikasi Legalitas Kayu (SVLK), the certification system was put into place to regulate Indonesia’s forestry sector. However, the briefing finds that rigorous, enhanced due diligence into the sourcing of forest products is still needed, even when those products bear a SVLK “legality” or “sustainability” certificate, before buyers can be confident that Indonesian forestry companies are upholding communities’ legal rights.

The report finds that loopholes in the SVLK auditing standards and weaknesses in its application result in a failure to provide adequate safeguards against endemic corruption and violations of community rights. In one example, the SVLK standard so undervalues community rights that companies may be certified as “sustainable” even when an audit finds a company in violation of all of their legal obligations to local communities. Further, SVLK audits rely heavily on “desk study” of documents without any requirement for unannounced field evaluations to assess implementation. In this way, the report finds, companies are attaining legal and “sustainable” certifications even while violating human rights.

“Certifying forest products as legal, even while they are associated with significant violations of communities’ legal rights, contributes to the continued abuses of communities and misleads buyers about risks associated with forest products,” said Rainforest Action Network’s Lafcadio Cortesi. “Perversely, this false veneer of legality and sustainability may increase the market share of these forest product companies. What’s needed is for buyers to conduct enhanced due diligence and engage their suppliers, as well as the government of Indonesia, to improve practices, the SVLK standard and its application, so that communities’ legal rights are respected and enforced.”

The briefing recommends that forest product buyers and investors make it known to producer companies, home governments and the Indonesian government that communities’ legal and human rights are an important part of the legality of the supply chain and that the SVLK should be strengthened in order to provide better assurance that community rights are respected. Further, it calls on buyers to engage the EU government to refrain from offering a “green lane” to shipments with SVLK certificates until the weaknesses described in the briefing are addressed. The report also recommends that buyers and investors engage the Japanese government to further clarify and enforce Green Purchasing laws and to not accept SVLK as adequate assurance of legality until the weaknesses in the SVLK have been addressed.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Greenomics Indonesia: more than 4,000 hectares of deep peat forest lost on APP supplier concession

According to a new press release by Greenomics Indonesia, more than 4,000 hectares (or more than 10,000 acres)  of forested deep peatlands have been lost on a concession belonging to one of the largest suppliers of APP, located in the province of West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. The loss of the said forested deep peatlands has been significant over the course of just three months, from late June to mid-September 2014.

"APP needs to adhere to its association procedure policy so as to clean up its supply chain having regard to its "zero deforestation policy" and temporarily suspend its contract with the supplier as a result of this very extensive loss of forested deep peatlands on the concession of one of its suppliers in Indonesian Borneo," said Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia.

Vanda said that PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) – which primarily operates in South Sumatra province and is one of APP's largest and most important pulpwood suppliers – also has a concession located in the province of West Kalimantan. Based on legal documents submitted officially by BMH to the Ministry of Forestry (now the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry), it is acknowledged that BMH’s concession in West Kalimantan will serve as the APP's longterm supplier.

"The massive loss of forested deep peatlands on the BMH concession in West Kalimantan demands that APP remains consistent to its association procedure policy, as BMH South Sumatra and BMH West Kalimantan are one and the same company, which has pulpwood plantation development concessions in different provinces," explained Vanda.

She said that Greenomics wanted to see APP form a multi-stakeholder-based independent team to investigate the direct and indirect causes of the loss of the peatlands in the BMH West Kalimantan concession as BMH South Sumatra was an important supplier to the existing APP mills, as well as its new mill that is due to commence operations next year in South Sumatra province.

"APP obviously needs to suspend its contract with BMH South Sumatra while the independent multi-stakeholder team conducts its investigation and issues recommendations for implementation by APP," said Vanda.

She reminded APP that it must not ignore the loss of the forested deep peatlands on the BMH concession in West Kalimantan by, for example, continuing to source pulpwood fiber from BMH South Sumatra.
"If that were to happen, it would mean that APP would be failing to abide by its responsible fiber procurement and processing policies under its Forest Conservation Policy," Vanda stressed.

According to Greenomics Indonesia, APP should temporarily suspend its contract with the supplier and launch an independent multi-stakeholder investigation on this case.

According to APP, which sent an investigative team over the weekend to conduct field checks on GPS points mentioned by  the Greenomics' report, BMH apparently isn't currently operating in the concession area.

"Based on the information provided by the community, no companies are operating in BMH West Kalimantan, including: no BMH West Kalimantan's camps, supporting infrastructure, land clearing or planting," Aida Greenbury, of APP's managing director of sustainability, told MongabayGreenbury said that while BMH secured a license from the Ministry of Forestry to convert the area for timber plantations, the company was refused entry by the local community when it tried to conduct field surveys in 2008 and 2009. Since then, there has effectively been a stand-off in the area.