Green panel to tighten rules on paper products

By next year, makers, distributors will need Forest Stewardship cert to get Green Label

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The retail industry has gone into a frenzy, with major players being pressured to sign a form to declare that they do not sell products from APP, under probe for its possible link to the haze-causing forest fires. So why does it matter if they sign the form or not? What should consumers do?

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which awards the Singapore Green Label to companies, is tightening its criteria for paper products here.

By early next year, the 17 paper product makers and distributors here with the right to use the mark on their goods must all have certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - the most credible forest certification scheme now, going by a recent assessment by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Currently, only two green-label holders for paper goods - Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) exclusive distributor Universal Sovereign Trading and PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper Tbk Perawang Mill - provide certification from another body, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), instead. That will soon be dropped.

"We will no longer be accepting anything else but FSC certifications, which are more stringent and have specific standards," said SEC's head of eco-certification Kavickumar Muruganathan. "We hope to have the change in place by early next year."

He added that the FSC has the support of many environmental groups and has a system of tracing, verifying and labelling timber and wood products.

The PEFC, in contrast, is made up primarily of representatives of the forest products industry, Mr Kavickumar said.

The SEC's move comes on the back of the temporary suspension of Universal Sovereign Trading's green label due to its connection with APP - one of five firms under probe for possible connection to the forest fires causing the haze.

This led to several supermarket firms pulling APP products off their shelves on Wednesday.

The SEC's tightening will mean that APP could lose its green label for good, even if the firm is found not linked to the fires.

It also had its FSC certificates revoked in 2007.

FSC's Asia-Pacific regional director Alistair Monument said the firm's certificates around the world were pulled after information came to light "that APP was involved in destructive forestry practices", such as forest clearance and illegal logging.

When contacted, APP did not respond to queries on how SEC's move would affect it.

On the revoking of the FSC certificates, an APP spokesman said there have been many developments since 2007, one of them being working with the FSC on an action plan to potentially get its certification back.

  • Green certification systems worldwide

  • Singapore Green Label

    • Awarded by the Singapore Environment Council. Launched in 1992.

    • Over 3,000 products across 45 categories bear the stamp. They have environment-friendly credentials.

    • Applicants must provide valid test reports, relevant certification and, in some cases, make declarations.

    Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

    • A Germany-based organisation founded in 1993, it has its own certification system to ensure paper and other forest products come from well-managed forests.

    • 111 companies in Singapore and 30,000 globally carry its stamp.

    • Every player in the supply chain, from plantation owners to distributors, are audited by independent bodies annually.

    • Considered by many environmental groups to be the most rigorous assessment.

    Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

    • The Switzerland-based group gives its stamp to timber/forests certified by other countries, like the Indonesian Forestry Certification Cooperation (IFCC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

    • Last year, over 260 million ha of forests globally were PEFC-certified and over 16,000 companies had certification.

    • In June, Greenpeace called the IFCC and SFI schemes "weak forest certification systems".

    Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

    • Founded in 2004 and based in Malaysia.

    • Has certified 283 palm oil mills, 54 growers and 1,499 companies.

    • Independent auditors make sure they adhere to all RSPO environmental and social practices , including a strict no-burning policy.


    • The first GreenPalm certificates were registered and sold in 2008. The programme is based in Britain.

    • Products with its label support certified sustainable palm oil.

    Jessica Lim

Mr Steven Goh, who runs retail consultancy SG Retail Network, said the SEC's move is a positive one.

It is probably also due to the council's need to protect the reputation of its green label.

"Here you have a company that could be linked to forest fires with the green mark on it. That's not a good thing. The new criteria will also give consumers the confidence that its mark is still solid."

Fitness trainer Georgina Chua, 32, said: "When I buy something with the green label on it, I can be assured that it is sustainable. It is important that we can continue to trust such marks."

Jessica Lim on what consumers can do to send a signal to haze-causing companies

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline Green panel to tighten rules on paper products. Subscribe