APP's latest PR volley reveals more about its deforestation plans than intended

Posted by andy.t — 4 February 2011 at 3:24pm - Comments
Destroying Sumartran rainforest to make way for APP pulpwood plantations
All rights reserved. Credit: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Greenpeace
Destroying Sumartran rainforest to make way for APP pulpwood plantations

For a while now I’ve been watching closely as Sinar Mas’s pulp and paper arm, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has cranked up its PR machine to start spouting out more and more nonsense, trying to bamboozle their customers (and others) about the reality of their operations in Indonesia. In the second half of 2010 it came thick and fast, and the signs are that this year is going to be no different. Clearly they have a lot of money to throw at this.

The latest example appeared this week in the Ecologist of all places. APP’s sustainability director, Aida Greenbury, was given a free run to wax lyrical about how the NGOs have it all wrong and to talk about how APP really is a responsible company, implementing best practice in the Indonesian forest sector. It’s a fairly nauseating article in some parts, clearly steered (or is that written?) by current APP PR spin-meisters Cohn and Wolfe, designed to distract from the reality of Sinar Mas forestry operations and to  focus attention on a few projects that APP is throwing money at to try and improve its reputation.

There is a lot that could be pulled apart in this article, but among all the hot air the bit they don’t really want you to pay any attention to is buried down in paragraph 15 or so. The key lines are:

"...around 85 per cent of APP’s pulpwood consumption comes from our own Sustainable Wood Plantations (which are replanted every six or seven years), with the remainder coming from legally-sourced mixed wood residues. In five years, we are aiming for 100 per cent being sourced from our own plantations."

This is fascinating stuff. Leaving aside the questionable 85 per cent figure for now (APPs own figures should rarely be taken at face value) and the bit about legality (please tell us who verified that this timber from forest conversion is indeed "legally-sourced"?), the most interesting part is the bit about moving only to plantation timber.

For the uninitiated, the mixed wood residues being referred to is not very clever PR speak for ‘rainforest destruction’ - in other words, it's timber that comes from deforestation in Sumatra, from areas including those mapped as deep peat areas and habitat for species such as the Sumatran tiger. In other words, exactly the sort of thing APP is trying to convince us it isn't responsible for. See the results of clearance by one of APP's suppliers in the image above.

So what they're actually saying here is that they are set for at least five more years of rainforest destruction in Indonesia. I say "at least" because it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Back in 2004, APP claimed it would rely only on plantation timber by 2007. They missed that deadline, so they had another go in 2007, this time claiming that by the end of 2009 they would be finished trashing forests (see our report, Pulping the Planet, for more details).

So, is it going to be third time lucky? Well, even if it was, the question is whether any responsible company buying paper products is seriously going to accept that it’s fine to keep liquidating the carbon and biodiversity-rich forests and peatlands of Indonesia, just for throwaway paper products for another five years?

Aida, you seem to have inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. Oops.

arrg i just wish there was some serious consideration of an international law against clear felling rain forest, to be replaced instead by the more planet friendly modle currently legislated for in south korea!!!!!

This picture has a lot of power.

I think Greenpeace should publish more of the pictures they have (satelite etc) of the rainforest deforestation.  It's easier for people to get if it's right in front of their eyes.

It's just shocking!  Keep up the pressure!

Deforestation is THE most destructive persuit in progress far as life on this planet is concerned...even if cut down by half, all forests would be cleared away completely, in the not too distant future, in spite of replanting at the current level.... oil will run out in the very near future, so if nothing is done about drilling, this aspect of life will end anyway...deforestation must stop at slightly below the level of replanting for a period, and replanting must be taken up in the areas of deforestation, by replacing the same species of trees removed, until a "balance " has been achieved, and from then on, cutting must equal planting PERIOD !!!

that picture actualy physicaly scares me... The fact that the human race thinks they can do anything with the world is not right ( that is not everyone!) and people need to wisen up and realize that what they are doing, can not be rewoubd so that they havn't left huge scars on the earth for every one else to have to live with! Somthing must bedone,and we cannot just sit around and watch them kill what isn't theirs to kill. AND YES I MEAN THE ANIMALS ASWELL! This is because animals get caught up in all the horrible business and that means that even whole species of animals that we don't even know about could be getting wiped out as you read this. I feel very strongly on this matter as it is npt right what they are doing.

I think the moment of truth has arrived.....deforestation must STOP..... PERIOD !!! Never mind about places like China, who use up HALF the worlds resouces, and all in the name of PROFIT...GREED......what we need now, is an organisation of MERCENARIES.....those who are willing to go into an area of deforestation, and !Take OUT" those found in the process of tree felling.....and I do not intend mincing words here !!!...they could render the equipment useless !!!.....think about the Hunt Saboteurs !!! they never actually killed anyone, but they stopped many a hunt before a fox was ripped up alive, and got the events into the public eye, I wish I were 40 years younger...I would go there myself to cause havoc among those causing havoc in the forests....I cannot speciffically say what I would do obviously, but there would not be lumberjacks there for very long after I arrived there believe you me !!!......ANY VULUNTEERS ???

About Andy Tait

Andy is the senior adviser on biodiversity at Greenpeace UK.

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