Asia Pulp and Paper has spent the last few weeks telling customers around the world that the company’s latest sustainability pledges mean that this time, the changes the company has announced are genuine.  To the untrained eye new pledges to stop forest clearance in limited areas and plans to only source from plantations can sound promising. 

But today in Indonesia, as part of Greenpeace’s latest ‘Tigers’ Eyes Tour’ Greenpeace Indonesia and WALHI (Indonesian Environmental Forum) activists, along with Robi, lead singer of famous Balinese grunge band, Navicula, came across the fresh clearing in the middle of a plantation run by PT Asia Tani Persada.

This again highlights the real problem: If words aren’t matched by immediate action to stop forest clearance,  APP’s commitments are meaningless.

Top line pledges by the company to halt forest clearance until conservation plans are agreed come with major caveats. APP is actually only referring to about 40% of the areas it sources from in Indonesia, with these areas being where most of the forest was actually clearedyears ago.

 APP commitments to end forest clearance by 2015 comes with a large dose of small print as it still plans to rely on rainforest timber for a significant percentage of its production after that time.  And given that the company has repeatedly claimed previously that it would end its reliance on forest clearance only to then miss the deadlines, how can APP be trusted this time?

If these issues weren’t enough to sow the seeds of doubt then news that APP is planning to build one of the world’s largest pulp mill’s in South Sumatra certainly does. The company makes no reference to these plans for a 2 million ton pulp mill in its sustainability announcements, yet they appear to blow a massive hole in claims that all targets to stop forest clearance can and will be met as planned.

It’s within this context that the news that APP is now working with The Forest Trust (TFT) must be seen. If APP isn’t able to stop clearance of Indonesia’s rainforests for its pulp and paper production, then its choice of NGO partner and the glossy PR campaigns that surround it’s activities remain meaningless. 

APP has spent years and tens of millions of dollars on greenwash whilst Indonesia’s forests get pulped for throwaway paper products.  The evidence from the front line in Borneo today suggests that we are a long way from seeing the real change needed to stop forest destruction in Indonesia. Greenpeace and other NGOs are judging the value of APP’s commitments by its actions in the forests.

By Bustar Maitar, Head Of Greenpeace’s campaign to save Indonesia’s forests