Greenpeace cuts ties with Asia Pulp and Paper over allegations of deforestation

A chip conveyor system and log storage seen at the Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) OKI mill in Palembang on Feb 27, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE -International environmental group Greenpeace is cutting ties with a haze-linked company over allegations that Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is still linked to the destruction of forests for pulpwood.

The announcement puts an end to some five years of collaboration between the environmental group, which had advised APP on the implementation of its forest conservation policies, and the company.

"Greenpeace International has put these allegations to APP/Sinar Mas. The group failed to provide a credible response or to take meaningful action. As a result, Greenpeace has ended all further engagement with APP/Sinar Mas," Greenpeace said in a statement on Wednesday (May 16).

Sinar Mas Group is the parent company of APP, Indonesia's largest pulp and paper company, which was linked to the record-breaking haze in the region in 2015. Following the crisis, APP beefed up its fire suppression strategies, and reaffirmed its commitment to the zero-deforestation pledge it made in 2013.

But Greenpeace said on Wednesday (May 16) that its investigations showed that the firm had reneged on this promise. An analysis of satellite imagery and company deeds showed that almost 8,000 ha of forest and peatland had been cleared in two concessions owned by pulpwood company Muara Sungai Landak and a Sinar Mas mining company, Golden Energy and Resource, said Greenpeace.

Greenpeace said both concessions were linked to APP and its parent company the Sinar Mas Group, a claim APP has disputed.

Greenpeace said its checks showed that Muara Sungai Landak was owned by two employees of APP's sister company, Sinar Mas Forestry. As for Sinar Mas' Golden Energy and Resource, Greenpeace said the firm had "openly admitted to owning the pulpwood concession Hutan Rindang Banua". Satellite analysis of the latter suggests that nearly 5,000 hectares of forest had been cleared since 2013, Greenpeace said.

Their allegations follow an Associated Press report last December that implied that APP had covered up links to suppliers that practise deforestation or illegal slash-and-burn methods in a bid to void its sustainability claims. The article alleged that APP and Sinar Mas, had control over 27 suppliers that it had earlier claimed were independent, citing over 1,000 pages of APP corporate records. APP had likely done so to distance itself from rogue suppliers, allowing it to minimise responsibility, the report added.

APP rubbished the Associated Press report when it was published.

On Wednesday evening (May 16), the company maintained its position, saying that the businesses cited by Greenpeace were not under "the direct jurisdiction of APP".

The APP spokesman said an unnamed independent auditor had in 2014 concluded that Muara Sungai Landak had no relationship with APP. "However, as a result of the allegation made in the Associated Press report, we conducted an investigation and found that three of (the company's) shareholders, and not two as stated in... Greenpeace's statement, had relationships with APP."

Two were ex-employees, and one was a current employee who had not declared his shareholdings and position within Muara Sungai Landak. "The employee was terminated with immediate effect," said the APP spokesman.

He added that he was unable to speak on behalf of Golden Energy and Resource, as it "operates independently from us and do not supply wood to APP".

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