• APP is on the attack but still won’t abandon rainforest destruction

    Blogpost by Andy Tait, Greenpeace UK - November 9, 2011 at 9:45 1 comment

    A few days ago we revealed that Asia Pulp and Paper, the world’s most notorious rainforest destroyer, has lost more customers, with lots of big clients walking away because APP keeps on using Indonesian rainforest fibre in its products.  And last week, APP’s ill-judged advertising campaign, ‘ APP cares’ was called ‘misleading’ by advertising standards officials in Holland.

    APP’s response? They wheeled out their creaking publicity machine in the guise of New York-based public relations outfit Cohn & Wolfe. Cohn & Wolfe spammed journalists around the world with an email saying Greenpeace made ‘false allegations against Asia Pulp and Paper’. Our campaign 'misleads' the toy industry on ‘Indonesian rainforest claim’ their news release said as it slapped into media inboxes like a dead fish.

    How has APP reached this conclusion? They have picked out a few lines from our catalogue of evidence and then attempted to kick all the context out of them.  APP are quoted in their press release as saying: “Greenpeace based its entire global campaign against APP on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre. The company Greenpeace asked to carry out the tests has admitted this claim cannot be justified.”

    This is, frankly, laughable. We didn’t base our entire campaign on a single premise. We’ve got a mountain of evidence linking APP to rainforest destruction, and it starts with APP’s own documents.  Some of these documents are public, such as its latest corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, where APP admits that it uses rainforest fibre, though it prefers to refer to this in PR-speak as ‘mixed wood residues’. Greenpeace also obtained APP’s own internal planning documents, which confirm ongoing plans to target rainforest areas in order meet fibre needs.

    But, of course, we don’t just rely on APP’s information. By carrying out overflights of APP concession areas we have repeatedly documented, using GPS images, large scale rainforest clearance by APP’s suppliers. Our mappers have pinpointed deforestation in APP concessions. Our on-the-ground investigations have tracked the timber from these areas to APP mills, and our chain of custody research links the products from these mills to global brands like those in the toy sector. And yes, we also did forensic testing that confirms the presence of rainforest fibre (mixed tropical hardwoods) in a number of products.

    So, let’s have a look at what the independent paper testing laboratory , IPS, referred to in the press release, told APP:

    "IPS is only able to determine the types of fibres present in such samples. We have not, and are unable to identify country of origin of the samples." IPS is absolutely correct because its testing is not designed to identify the country of origin, so of course we didn’t ask them to do that. It’s designed to identify the types of wood fibre. We put these tests together with the rest of our evidence, telling us everything we needed to know about APP’s sourcing.

    “This type of assertion would need to be based on data outside of our findings.” Yes, exactly right; which is why we spent months engaged in a thorough and forensic examination of APP’s supply chain, including carrying out field research to document the clearance of rainforests.

    “Therefore we are unable to comment on the credibility of the statements Greenpeace has made regarding country of origin.” Well, hold the front page.  IPS are saying here that they are ‘unable to comment’ and quite right too. They are not, as APP suggests, saying that our evidence has ‘no scientific basis’.

    Somehow, the PR spin team at Cohn & Wolfe have taken a scientist saying they are unable to comment and strung it out into a several hundred word news release saying that we made false allegations. It’s just the kind of tosh that gives the PR industry a bad name. Fortunately, very few people take this stuff seriously. And that is because APP’s claims hold less water than a sieve.

    All of our evidence has been available for months for everyone to see right here. And we’ll continue to post our evidence there as we press for APP to reform its practices. 

    So, Asia Pulp and Paper, this is all getting a bit ridiculous.  We’d suggest you take a walk around the offices in Jakarta that you share with your sister company Golden Agri Resources and have a chat with them about their forest protection commitments. Those credible commitments have started to win back customers like Nestlé and Unilever and can lead to real changes on the ground.  You could follow suit. Your critics in Indonesia and around the world would welcome it. 

    You need a coherent plan to solve these issues, not a half-baked PR attack campaign.

    Image: Greenpeace activists dressed as tigers hold a banner reading "Save Forests Save Tiger's Home" inside the PT Arara Abadi concession, a supplier to the pulp division of Sinar Mas Group - Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). The 'Tiger's Eye Tour' was launched to bear witness to the real condition of Indonesia's forests. Greenpeace is urging the government to review existing concessions and protect peatland and urges industries to implement a zero deforestation policy in their operations.

1 Comment Add comment

(Unregistered) LLTurner says:

Precious moments are wasted every day as the planets lungs are facing annihilation. It seems the battle continues daily and the realization will obviously come too late for very many... including this PR firm. It really makes one wonder how they would react if this was happening in their own back yard, well actually it is. This planet is everyone's back yard. Thank you Greenpeace for being the voice of so many of us.

Posted November 14, 2011 at 13:47 Flag abuse Reply

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