Notorious rainforest destroyer Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is not exactly a model of corporate responsibility.  But they seem to have added a new low mark with their latest, desperate antics to greenwash their soiled image.

One of APP's Australian subsidiaries has been caught in an embarrassing incident, in which clumsy personal attacks on Greenpeace campaigners and others have been traced back to their senior staff.

Peat forest being destroyed to feed APP paper mills

You may have heard about our campaign work regarding APP and companies like Mattel, Hasbro and Disney, but toy packaging is far from the only business APP is mixed up in.  APP is also selling toilet and tissue paper under names like Paseo and Livi in countries around the world.

Greenpeace activists in Australia recently campaigned to convince a major supermarket chain down under, IGA, to ditch APP and its Australian affiliate Solaris. IGA was selling APP tissue, and used APP to make some of its own store-brand tissue products.  Then came the video of a tiger dying within a plantation operated by one of APP's suppliers and just miles from where forest is being cleared to feed APP paper mills.  The video and the flurry of supporter emails to supermarket executives clearly had an impact: five days later, IGA stated that it would no longer be using Solaris for its toilet paper and would find an alternative supplier.  IGA still needs to commit to excluding APP from its supply chain entirely, but it's a good step forward.

Solaris wasn't happy about losing such a significant customer, and responded with expensive full-page advertizements in newspapers across Australia aiming to "[set] the record straight on Greenpeace". It's the same list of excuses, misleading statements and, let's be honest, lies about what parent company APP is up to in Indonesia.

APP/Solaris Greenwash

All rights reserved. Credit: Solaris

Advertizement placed by APP subsidiary Solaris in Australian newspapers (via Mumbrella)

In addition to "setting the record straight" with the usual litany of greenwash excuses and rhetoric, APP says it "invite[s] Greenpeace to join us at the table and play a constructive role in protecting endangered species."

Now things get interesting. Mumbrella, an Australian media and marketing website, became suspicious about the angry comments posted on its story about Solaris.  Many were overtly hostile personal attacks on Greenpeace staff.  One went so far as to call one Australian campaigner "scum", while another launched quasi-racist attacks on IGA's management.

Mumbrella followed up on the suspicious comments and checked the IP addresses from which the comments were posted.  They found that hostile comments posted under different names came from computers running on Solaris's own network, while many more were from another, unidentified IP address, pretending to be different people.

So much for playing "a constructive role..."

According to Mumbrella, at least some of the comments were made by a senior member of staff who "owned up."  Despite issuing a statement condemning the comments made from its own computers, Solaris still made a point of bemoaning the "unfair and ungrounded accusations" made by Greenpeace.

Apart from some basic lessons in etiquette and accountability, what else does this incident reveal?  It tells us a lot about APP's global approach to criticizm levelled against it.  Rather than dealing with the serious problems they're embroiled in – deforestation on a grand scale, pushing species closer to extinction, creating conflicts with local communities – the company seems more interested in throwing up a smokescreen and lashing out against perceived enemies.

But smokescreens are easily blown away, and personal attacks just backfire.  Until APP actually changes its ways, more and more customers like IGA will judge APP by its deeds, not its words, and walk away.

for the forests,

-Rolf