Even though we've had huge success in turning companies like Unilever, Nestlé and Kraft off palm oil produced by Sinar Mas, that only represents one part of the jigsaw and Sinar Mas is still chewing its way through Indonesia's rainforests.
Palm oil is one of two plantation products which are driving deforestation in Indonesia, paper being the other big hitter. Needless to say, Sinar Mas is up to its neck in the paper business as well and we've compiled new evidence in a report called Pulping the Planet which shows exactly how its pulp and paper operations are threatening the forests just as much as its palm oil business is.
As the title suggests, the report focuses on the paper side of the story. Extensive research, documentation and on-the-ground work reveals that one arm of the hydra-like Sinar Mas group - Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) - is supplying paper to big name companies like Tesco, Walmart, KFC and Hewlett Packard.
Yet despite repeated promises that it is pursuing a "path toward sustainability" and that it would only use plantation trees for its pulp by 2009, APP is still using rainforest timber to feed two of its paper mills in Sumatra. Sinar Mas has large areas of intact rainforest under concession waiting to be cleared for acacia plantations, including areas around Bukit Tigapuluh National Park which is a vitally important habitat for the highly endangered Sumatran tiger, as well as being one of the only sites where equally threatened orang-utans are reintroduced to the wild.
Some of this land also includes rich peatlands which release huge amounts of greenhouse gases when they're drained and burnt - one reason why Indonesia is the third largest emitter in the world. Incidentally, it's illegal to clear peat which is deeper than three metres, but Sinar Mas has a track record of ignoring that particular regulation.
As a result of our earlier work, many companies have already put clear blue water between themselves and various parts of the Sinar Mas group:
- Unilever, Nestlé and Kraft have all suspended their dealings with the palm oil side of the company;
- Kimberly Clark, Kraft, Nestlé and Unilever are all in the process of implementing global paper policies that will rule out supplies from APP, unless substantial changes are made by the company and its suppliers;
- and only yesterday Tesco and French supermarket giant Carrefour announced they too would be ridding their shelves of own-brand APP products by the end of this year, following similar decisions by Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer in the UK.
Even so, APP now has its own foothold in the UK with its expanded sales network - whilst cunningly avoiding its own tarnished brand name by using Arco Paper and Calington Ltd instead. And APP is on the march with similar expansion plans elsewhere and a shiny new greenwash advertising campaign to persuade us it really does care about trees, including a number of spots seen on CNN. It must be a truly unscrupulous ad agency which is taking APP's dirty money to fashion these astounding works of fiction.
To stop all this madness, two things need to happen. Other companies with Sinar Mas or APP contracts must drop them and no doubt we'll be asking for your assistance when it becomes clear who the more stubborn ones are. In addition, the partial halt to deforestation recently promised by Indonesia's president needs to be extended to cover existing concessions (at the moment, it only applies to new concessions - that's if it actually happens). Only with such a blanket ban on deforestation can the problems facing Indonesia's rainforests really be tackled, and we're going to make sure that happens.