Progress Report: Asia Pulp & Paper, One Year Later

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rfp_app_deforestation_565x350Today marks the 1st year anniversary of the latest published “forest conservation policy” (FCP) of the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). Rainforest Action Network has evaluated the progress APP and its suppliers have made towards implementing key elements of its policy as well as toward meeting the APP Performance Targets and Milestones developed by the Environmental Paper Network, a network of 120 NGOs internationally and endorsed by WWF, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Wahana Bumi Hijau among others. The Milestones set out specific performance benchmarks for implementation of the FCP as well as describe and set out performance milestones for a number of fundamental gaps in APP’s commitments.

In summary, aside from the commendable cessation of logging activities in most of the operations of APP and its supply chain, even after one year, it is too soon to confirm that tangible conservation or social benefits have taken place on the ground as a result of APP’s policy. Most of the progress APP has made in the past year has been in collecting HCV and HCS data – most of which has yet to be shared making an assessment impossible – and in setting up teams, systems and processes such as consultants to conduct HCV assessments, protocols for standard operating procedures and the “dash board.” These are laudable and an essential component of implementing and broadening the company’s commitments, however they do not allow for evaluating whether promised reforms are having any impact. Even in the area of setting up teams and collecting data, much has yet to be done – from the need for securing stakeholder input and agreement with the interpretation and use of this data for forest management plans to the urgent need to address peatland issues, initiate FPIC processes, and scale up land and social conflict resolution.

It has been a disappointment to learn how much tropical forest, much on deep peat, was cleared by APP and suppliers in the lead up to the moratorium established by the FCP thereby erasing many potential conservation gains. By the time of the moratorium, APP’s old concessions, covering 2.6 million hectares of formerly mostly forested and often peatlands had relatively small areas of forest remaining. This reality, APP’s track record of broken promises, along with the many land and social conflicts between APP, its suppliers, and rural communities underscore the need for comprehensive and ambitious restoration, compensation, and conflict resolution to address APP’s legacy of adverse social and environmental impacts.

We welcome the news that APP has engaged the Rainforest Alliance to conduct an independent audit of its performance. It is imperative that the audit develop robust indicators for and then verifies not only APP performance in implementing the FCP, but also the EPN targets and milestones, including the gaps in the FCP including, for example, restoration/compensation for APP’s legacy of negative impacts, measuring and reducing the company’s carbon footprint and a permanent prohibition on the use of fiber from tropical natural forests. It is premature for potential customers and investors to consider establishing business ties with APP before such audit criteria have been agreed and before it has been independently verified that APP is meeting them.

Based on our evaluation we recommend

  • that companies do not buy products from the APP group and avoid investing in their infrastructure expansion projects;
  • that buyers and investors encourage APP to formally commit to expand its so far limited policy to cover all aspects of sustainable and responsible operations as recommended in the EPN Performance Targets and Milestones; and
  • that buyers and investors wait for verification by independent NGOs and an independent auditor that the implementation of the expanded policy has resulted in real, measurable, and permanent achievements on the ground


3 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Robin Shepherd says:

    Your line is far too aggressive. You come across as entrenched with bias and inertia to move on. The EPN coalition would move the timber and paper sectors along far more quickly if it got behind APP (at least publicly). From what I’ve read, APP has shown a lot of commitment over the last year despite the testing circumstances of operating in Indonesia and Borneo. I think the message in this article is for the boardroom table not a public blog. APP’s efforts over the last year deserve that at least. More to the point, this looks disjointed from Greenpeace’s message. That not only confuses business (and therefore me) but also does little to encourage others to show the same commitment. You might want to get those 120 groups together and come up with something more coherent.

  2. Bruno Leduc says:

    Thank you RAN for maintaining some healthy scepticism and asking the right questions. Let’s not forget that APP is making these statements after having trashed most of the natural forests within their concessions already. It will be very necessary keep close scrutiny on the Rainforest Alliance; there are limits to the “independence” of an audit if it is APP paying for it (or am I wrong on that assumption ?).

  3. I agree with Robin’s statement above – also, is anything worthwhile done overnight? A year isn’t a long time to move leaps and bounds, so as long as they’re still making progress in the right direction, who’s to say they won’t get there?

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