Why is the world's largest forest certification scheme still standing by APP?

Posted by andy.t — 29 July 2011 at 3:29pm - Comments
A dead Sumatran tiger, found trapped on an APP concession, is carried away by fo
All rights reserved. Credit: Melvinas Priananda/Greenpeace
The dead tiger, found trapped on an APP concession earlier this month, is carried away

Earlier this week, we released some sad, shocking footage showing the slow and gruesome death of a Sumatran tiger that became trapped within an Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) concession in Sumatra's Riau province. The video footage also revealed that in the same APP area, recent forest clearance had taken place in an area identified as tiger habitat.

This episode is not only tragic in conservation terms, it highlights the role of the world’s largest forestry certification body - the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) - in greenwashing APP’s reputation by certifying some of its very questionable products.

Incredibly, APP products containing timber from the area where this tiger died could actually receive the PEFC stamp of approval and be sold around the world as sustainable.

How is this possible, given that there are no PEFC-certified forests in Indonesia? Like many forest certification schemes, PEFC allows the production of what have become known as mixed source products - that is, products that contain certified timber but also some timber that isn’t, as explained on the PEFC website.

The part that isn’t certified has to come from what have become known as non-controversial or controlled sources. This is timber that isn't certified, but comes from areas that are checked or verified for things such as basic legality standards, standards which are set by PEFC.

But because these PEFC standards are weak, APP is able to trash forests in Indonesia, replace them with plantations, and then get these plantation areas verified as non-controversial by PEFC.  What a wheeze. And that is exactly what they've done. A number of APP concession areas in Indonesia have been verified under PEFC rules as non-controversial sources. This verification is currently carried out by SGS, a certification audit body.

So APP imports PEFC-certified timber from outside Indonesia, mixes it with this 'non-controversial’ Indonesian timber, and produces PEFC products. The APP area where the tiger died is one of these PEFC-verified areas. Timber from all these verified areas can be used in PEFC certified mixed source products sold as ‘sustainable’ by APP anywhere in the world.

Have PEFC launched an immediate enquiry or severed their connections to APP? Not quite. PEFC’s only public response has been an astonishing Italian press release which appears to expose a basic lack of understanding of their own certification scheme.

For those of us who haven’t cracked Italian, this release claims that Greenpeace is releasing false information which is damaging PEFC’s reputation. It goes on to claim that because the PEFC-certified timber used by APP comes from certified plantations in Chile, we're trying to sneakily misrepresent the facts. It also states that yes, APP may have issues in Indonesia, but this doesn't apply to them because all the PEFC fibre is from Chile.

We've sent the report which shows how these areas are in fact PEFC-verified (if not fully certified) to the PEFC office in Italy. Perhaps it may lead to a public correction of their inaccurate claims? Better still perhaps, it may lead to an urgent review of just how it can be that timber from these areas can possibly be considered as non-controversial by PEFC?

APP’s deforestation includes the destruction of forests mapped as tiger habitat, replacing these forests with acacia plantations. APP is responsible for wiping out the home and hunting grounds of the Sumatran tiger to make throwaway paper products. How can it be that these same areas can then get verified as ‘non-controversial’ by the world’s largest forest certification scheme?

Isn’t it about time action was taken to stop APP from greenwashing its products with the PEFC  brand?

Update, 2 August 2011: Thanks to the eagle-eyed supporters who spotted that in fact PEFC International did actually slip out a response to the tiger story last week, which we didn't catch before this story was published. This second, equally astonishing response tried to bury the link between APP and PEFC right at the end of paragraph five - blink and you’ll miss it. Call me cynical, but doesnt this rather suggest that PEFC is trying to hide the fact that PEFC-certified products could also contain fibre from highly controversial APP areas in Indonesia?

Find out more about APP and Greenpeace's work on deforestation:

>> Endangered Sumatran tiger dies in trap on APP concession in Indonesia

>> APP spins yet more greenwash with latest advert

>> Call Mattel about Barbie's deforestation habit

>> How the toy industry and APP are responding to our Barbie campaign

>> Lego announces forest plan, but what about Mattel?

pulp and palm oil, by taking this issue to public and targeting APP highly questionable products Greenpeace and Greenpeace Indonesia have touched the nerves of the mighties of power and money. It surely is going to be a loooong winding rocky road.

monster to the earth's largest human

Would it not be possible to arrange an Internet Campaign against this so called "Watchdog"? I am absolutely appalled at what I have read.

Come on people let us get something together. Start sending E-Mails to paper firms asking where exactly they receive their pulp they work with. The more that do something like that, then more chance of Greepeace & us achiving something tangible.

It is already 2 minutes to twelve & time is rapidly running out.


Great reporting from Greenpeace, I've just started following this issue and it's good to see you keeping the pressure Asia Pulp & Paper, they are environmental bandits who need to be exposed. 

The more that do something like that, then more chance of Greepeace & us achiving something tangible. game

Corps will always find loop holes to exploit. APP cut a load of
uncertified forest down then plant acacia trees as replacements which
then certifies the area and they can then use it for their purposes. Oh
what to do? Perhaps don't certify any of the recently
and suspiciously replanted forest areas? Its not rocket science, yet
PECF just tries
to deny the connection between them and APP and the destruction
continues. I would be good if organisations like the PECF had authority
to just stop corps like APP from cutting down uncertified forest areas
or fine them bankrupt making amounts of money if they do.

Corruption and loop holes. Perhaps the root issue is that the local populate isn't all too concerned about these sorts of issues. Perhaps a grass roots effort to increase such concern might prove effective. -- High heels gal

Vision paper is a uk company who,s real name is Middleton paper.They along with xerox are selling paper from APP.Their approach is to sell the paper at such a low cost that schools and other customers cannot resist the savings. They are damaging the responsible businesses who do care. Damaging the reputation of PEFC will allow these companies even more licence to sell Indonesian Papers. Greenpeace should name and shame these companies.

such beautiful creatures need total Halo lights protection from these pouches

About Andy Tait

Andy is the senior adviser on biodiversity at Greenpeace UK.

Follow Greenpeace UK