Paper Industry Decimating Indonesia´s Tigers, Threatening Indigenous Communities
WASHINGTON, USA -- The survival of Sumatra´s tigers, elephants, orangutans, rhinos, as well as indigenous communities, is threatened by the "world´s fastest deforestation rate", caused by none other than the pulp and paper industry, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
By Charundi Panagoda, IPS
Photo: The Sumatran tiger has been classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Credit:Cheetah100/CC BY 2.0
In a recent report, WWF named the
Indonesian-based company Asia Pulp
& Paper (APP) as "responsible for more forest destruction in Sumatra
than any other single company". APP and competitor Asia Pacific
Resources International Limited (APRIL) have consumed the majority of
the wood harvested from commercial forest clearances and agriculture
"In central Sumatra, the impact of APP's operations on wildlife has
been devastating. The company's forest clearing in Riau Province has
been driving Sumatran elephants and tigers toward local extinction,"
the report said.
The companies have also begun clearing peat swamp forests. According
to Indonesian ministry of forestry estimates, deforestation
associated with peat decomposition and burning totals 1.2 gigatonnes
of carbon emissions per year, making Indonesia the world's third
largest greenhouse gas emitter.
"Products made with APP fiber linked to forest destruction are
flooding the U.S. market and landing in grocery stores, other retail
chains, restaurants, hotels, schools and municipalities in the form
of toilet tissue, paper towels, copier paper, stationery, paper bags
and paper-based packaging," WWF reported.
Two of APP's products identified in the U.S. are Paseo and Livi
tissues. APP products are distributed and marketed in North America
by a variety of subsidiaries and affiliates including Solaris Paper,
Mercury Paper and Papermax.
Despite concerns raised by environmental groups, APP claims to be
"committed to being socially, environmentally and economically
sustainable throughout its operations". When Indonesia's Eyes on the
Forest released a report on APP clearing Sumatra's Senepis Tiger
Sanctuary, the company fired back saying the allegations were
Philip Rundle, CEO of Oasis Brands which market Paseo and Livi, wrote
in a letter that their products are
"100 percent sustainable… (made
from) plantation-grown, rapidly renewable fiber supplied by APP."
"It's plainly ridiculous, profoundly untrue to claim that anything
APP produces is environmentally sustainable. To me, it borders on
false labeling. …There are maps, evidence. It's incontrovertible that
some of the practices APP engages in are not sustainable," Andrea
Johnson, director of forest campaigns for the Environmental
Investigation Agency, told IPS.
APP is engaging in a "very strong campaign" to "greenwash" their
activities and to assert they are actually doing everything legally,
Johnson added. APP's declarations include asserting that only
"degraded" land is being cleared, that only a little of Indonesian
land is allocated for mills, and emphasising APP's donations to
What APP calls "degraded land" is what WWF calls "tiger habitat," WWF
forest programme manager Linda Kramme told IPS. She believes many of
the sustainability statements made by APP and Oasis are misleading.
Suggesting APP is only impacting a small amount of Indonesia is like
saying the recent Gulf oil spill only impacted a small amount of the
U.S., she added.
"(WWF) believes they are mischaracterising their practices happening
on the ground. Many U.S. customers and companies don't have the
ability to go to Indonesia and see what's happening, so it can be
easy for them to read materials that APP and companies that market
their products like Oasis say - that they have different
certification, that they are doing things with conservation. But our
teams for two decades have seen impacts on ground and we see and
obligation to raise the questions and to raise the facts," she said.
WWF started engaging APP in 2001 to introduce the company to long-
term sustainability practices. However, WWF cut off ties with APP
after the company broke its promises to stop using natural forest
fiber despite signing a letter of intent.
Legally, bills such as the Lacey Act in the U.S. in
create various incentives not to buy illegally logged products,
Johnson said. However, greenwashing campaigns and incredibly
complicated supply chains make prosecution harder.
"APP has been increasingly using subsidiary companies and resorting
to opening mills under other names in countries like U.S. and Canada…
It's not that difficult to start another company and put another name
on it and use the same fibre. You see that tactic increasingly being
used by companies… I think that structuring on part of the company is
very intentional in order to make traceability almost impossible,
which obviously makes it difficult to enforce the law," Johnson said.
In 2010, APP was affected by the U.S. Commerce Department imposing
anti-dumping duty orders for certain coated
paper imported from
Indonesia. "Dumping" is a predatory pricing practice in international
trade that allows companies to sell their imported products at very
low prices, driving out the competition.
"There is an environmental component to the fact that (APP products
are) less expensive. One of the reasons they can afford lower costs
is because they are getting fibre illegally (by illegal logging, for
example). They are not engaging in the kind of business practices
which cost a little bit more if you want to do things legally and
that result in lower prices," Johnson said.
Still, the U.S. can prosecute companies like APP only if the
government of the producer country has criminal penalties for the
same activity. Therefore, it's the responsibility of the Indonesian
government to effectively implement conservation laws, activists say.
Johnson says a strong case can be made that Indonesia has affectively
subsidised the pulp and paper industry by not enforcing its own laws.
Published by: Magne Ove Varsi