More firms sign on to declare products free from APP link

More companies in Singapore are coming forth to distance themselves from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), currently under investigation for its possible links to the haze.

As of yesterday, 98 companies - from major retail chains such as NTUC FairPrice and Watsons Personal Care Stores to specialist paper supplier Mukim Fine Papers and flooring installation firm JPL Builders - have signed the Singapore Environment Council's (SEC) declaration form.

Two companies, which declined to be named, even came forth to do so voluntarily .

The online form, which requires companies to declare their products free of raw materials from APP - Indonesia's largest pulp and paper firm - has been sent to a total of 233 companies so far.

The Ministry of Finance has also sent a memo to all government agencies advising them "not to procure paper brands associated with APP" while investigations are under way.

MOVE TO BUY GREEN

If there is a green label or certification, I will try my best to buy it if the price difference is not too great. But it would be good if there was more information about which companies are actually to blame. This will help us make the right choices.

MR RICKY CHAN, 53, on the haze making him more conscious about his purchases

Singapore's National Environment Agency had served APP a notice late last month under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to provide information on its subsidiaries and measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concession lands.

This sparked a chain reaction, with the SEC suspending the use of its green label on APP products, and supermarkets such as FairPrice and Giant subsequently pulling APP products off their shelves. Online grocer Redmart did the same on Monday.

Local company Tipex, a major distributor of tissue paper products here, including popular brands such as Beautex, signed the form early this month after suspending the sale of the APP items it distributes.

"Our company supports the SEC's movement for companies to procure from sustainable sources that do not contribute to the haze and has since signed on the declaration form," said its vice-president, Mr Richard Sim.

The owner of wallpaper company Goodrich Global, Mr Chan Chong Beng, who signed the form on Oct 15, said he did it to show support for the movement.

"Environmental issues are a serious problem and we are all affected by this ongoing haze. We want to help create awareness about the importance of green consumerism," said Mr Chan, adding that he does not sell APP products. "We also want to assure our customers that we have nothing to do with the forest fires in Indonesia."

A global body representing consumers has also stepped into the fray. On Wednesday, Consumers International, a not-for-profit company based in Britain, called for consumers to stop buying items produced by firms involved in producing the haze-causing forest fires in Indonesia.

The body, which has 240 member organisations in 120 countries, including the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), said: "Consumers should send a strong signal to the errant companies through their purchasing power and refuse to support companies which are contributing to this environmental disaster by their irresponsible practices."

APP, which has placed several advertisements in newspapers in Singapore to inform consumers of its no-burning policy, told The Straits Times that there are indeed fires on its suppliers' concession lands.

However, it said: "The location of the fires is not determinative of who is responsible for starting the fires. Data collated from the Global Forest Watch website shows that most of the fires were started outside our suppliers' concessions."

Consumer Ricky Chan, 53, said the ongoing haze has prompted him to be more conscious about his purchases.

"If there is a green label or certification, I will try my best to buy it if the price difference is not too great," said the businessman. "But it would be good if there was more information about which companies are actually to blame. This will help us make the right choices."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'More firms sign on to declare products free from APP link'. Print Edition | Subscribe