Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has not lived up to the sustainability commitments it made five years ago, a coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs) has claimed on the anniversary of the controversial paper company’s Forest Conservation Policy (FCP).
The Indonesia-headquartered firm committed to stopping clearing natural forest on 5 February 2013, following years of campaigning by green groups. At the time, the announcement was seen as a sustainability milestone for the company. Until that day, APP had cleared more than 2 million hectares of tropical forests over 34 years of operations in Indonesia, according to a report by Eyes on the Forest.
To mark five years since the launch of the FCP, a group of 10 NGOs, including World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Indonesia-based Hutan Kita Institute and British advocacy group Forest Peoples Program, has issued a joint statement claiming that APP is “not yet on a sustainable track” and the progress it has made has “not been sufficient.”
Among their claims is that despite promising to halt deforestation, APP built one of the world’s largest pulp mills at the start of last year without—according to the NGOs’ calculations, which the company says are wrong—an adequate supply of plantation timber to feed it.
“When the wood supply faces a crunch, we fear the company will resume clearing Indonesia’s rainforests,” the statement reads.
A more recent doubt cast over APP’s zero-deforestation policy came in December last year when a report by the Associated Press (AP) found that the company had been falsely claiming that some its major timber suppliers were independent when, in fact, they have close ties to APP and its parent company Sinar Mas.
One example of that is PT. Muara Sungai Landak in West Kalimantan, which has reportedly been clearing natural forest and developing carbon-rich peatlands since 2014. AP’s report found that the company has links to Sinar Mas Forestry, a connection that APP denies.
“Over the last five years since the launch of the FCP, APP has made significant strides in its sustainability journey. This is something that is widely recognised. This is not to say that the progress made has been perfect.
Bernard Tan, managing director, global communications, Asia Pulp and Paper”
The second criticism of APP’s five-year sustainability track record is how it manages conflicts with people whose lands, forests and livelihoods have been affected by the company’s expanding operations in Indonesia. APP has claimed to have resolved 42 disputes, but hundreds are believed to be outstanding, the statement reads.
A third criticism centers on APP’s lack of progress on a commitment it made in 2013 to restore 1 million hectares of Indonesian forest.
“APP still has no plan to manage peatlands sustainably, either for economic use without peat drainage or restoration of natural vegetation, to curb APP’s contribution to climate change and stop peatland subsidence that could lead to flooding,” the report reads.