SINGAPORE - The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) on Tuesday (Jan 10) announced details of how its eco-labelling scheme for pulp and paper products will be made more rigorous.
The enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme will now require pulp and paper companies improve their peatland management and commit to early detection and suppression of fires when they occur, by investing in fire fighting equipment and having a standard operating procedure to assess fire danger rating daily, for example.
Companies must also pledge that zero-burning occurs on their plantations.
Previously, companies need only prove that it uses sustainable sources and manufacturing processes. So the new scheme is more robust in that it includes upstream measures, such as how plantations are managed, and how high-risk areas where fires occur repeatedly are dealt with.
Details of the enhanced green label criteria were announced by Mr Chong Khai Sin, the council's lead environmental engineer and head of eco-certifications, during a press briefing at Novotel hotel in Clarke Quay.
Mr Chong is at the SEC on secondment from the National Environment Agency.
Almost every year, during the dry season from June till about September, fires raging in forests, as well as oil palm and pulp and paper plantations, in Indonesia cause smoke haze to waft into Singapore. Indonesia is home to large swathes of carbon-rich peatland, which belch smoke haze when on fire.
In 2015, Singapore experienced the worst haze on record. It spurred the SEC, then helmed by former executive director Edwin Seah, to suspend the green label on Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) products - one of the Indonesian companies blamed for the haze.
It resulted in supermarkets pulling APP products, such as the Paseo brand of tissue paper, off the shelves. This caused a green awakening among consumers, with some pledging to boycott APP products.
"To increase credibility of our green label, the SEC completed a comprehensive review of the criteria for the certification of pulp and paper products," said SEC chairman Isabella Loh. She added that the growth of environmental consumerism is dependent on reliable and trustworthy eco-labelling programmes.
APP had previously said that it will try to reapply for the label. But Ms Loh declined to reveal the status of the firm's reapplication during the press conference.
The SEC's latest announcement, a year in the making, comes in the wake of the council's recent actions to terminate the employment of three of its senior staff - former executive director Edwin Seah, former assistant executive director Gerard Christopher, and former communications director Shirley Chua.
No reasons were given for the termination of the latter two. A disciplinary inquiry that was convened to look into the reasons for Mr Seah's termination also cleared him of charges. However, Ms Loh declined to elaborate on the reasons for their termination during Tuesday's event, saying the SEC Board did not permit these issues from being discussed.
Other questions on staffing matters, including who the candidates identified for the executive director role are, were also not answered during the press conference.