Investigative methods

Background - 25 November, 2011
Greenpeace investigations use a range of techniques, data sources and methodologies to document, analyse and expose the impacts of those responsible for the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands. These include field investigations; map and satellite analysis; examination of government, company and trade data; and forensic testing of paper, tissue and packaging materials.

Documenting APP's impact on Indonesia's rainforests

In Indonesia, independent analysis of the impact of pulp and palm oil sector operations is hampered by lack of government and industry transparency; this includes difficulty in acquiring current or sufficiently detailed data. Given these deficiencies, analysis must be understood as an indicative risk assessment. Findings should be confirmed through field validation.

Despite these limitations, using best available official, government and expert sources, Greenpeace has employed several techniques to assess the risk Sinar Mas Group (SMG)/APP operations and expansion plans pose to areas of forest, peatland and wildlife habitat and to monitor the impact of these operations.

Our methods and the data sets we use are often used by governments, conservation groups and even companies holding concessions, including Sinar Mas, to assess risk and monitor change.

There are several tiers of analysis:

Step one: risk mapping (spatial analysis)

  1. Map company operations. This requires knowledge of concession boundaries. Sinar Mas does not make these publicly available, thereby hampering public scrutiny of its operations. While the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry makes available maps showing fully licensed pulpwood concessions, these are not always up to date and do not detail ownership beyond naming the concessionaires, which are different for almost every concession. Best available information for SMG/APP concessionaires must be compiled from a variety of sources including the Ministry of Forestry, internal company documents, district registry offices, conservation organisations and environmental assessors.
  2. Map ecological values. Using best available spatial mapping data (Geographic Information System, GIS) from the Indonesia Ministry of Forestry, Wetlands International, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), expert conservation groups and other authorities, GIS experts use these data layers to create an ecosystem vision. This shows, for instance, at a landscape level, quality of forest cover, extent and depth of peatland, identified key biodiversity conservation areas and orang-utan and tiger habitat.
  3. Risk analysis. Identify where ecological values meriting protection fall within concession areas.

Step two: Impact mapping (temporal analysis)

  1. Compare satellite imagery covering the relevant time frame: one method of determining the extent of forest clearance within a concession area is to analyse and compare satellite images from multiple dates. Unlike the Brazilian Amazon, which has one month of relatively cloud-free skies, Indonesia's land area is often obscured by thick cloud cover, rendering satellite images of limited use in assessing changes in land cover.
  2. Overlay satellite analysis with ecological values maps and concession boundaries to determine changes in the quality or extent of values within a concession area.

Step three: Field investigations and aerial monitoring (ground truthing)

  1. Determine priority areas for investigation based on ecological risk analysis, impact analyses and other intelligence suggestive of potential active clearance.
  2. Conduct overflight surveillance of groups of concessions to verify and document active clearance and infrastructural development within areas identified by risk mapping as holding important ecological values.
  3. Gain access to concession areas to obtain documentary evidence of ecological and social values impacted by company operations. Where possible logistically, this may include evidence of peat depth, the presence of orang-utans (eg nests) or tigers (eg pawprints), quality of forest and legal compliance in operations. Further intelligence may be gathered through testimonies from workers and communities.

Chain of custody investigations: linking international brands to APP

Greenpeace investigates trade links between APP within Indonesia and China and major international brands and markets.

The key steps for such investigations are as follows:

  1. Identify and map APP trade between its pulp and paper mills in Indonesia and China.
  2. Identify and map trade from APP paper mills to APP-affiliated and third-party printers, packaging manufacturers, traders and distributers in Indonesia, China and key regional markets through trade data and company sources.
  3. Identify APP corporate consumers through trade data, publicity materials and confidential sources.

Given the scale of APP operations across a range of commodities and markets, such investigations are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of revealing the potential scale of the trade links between the global market and APP. The implication is clear: in the absence of strong corporate procurement policies, any company or brand sourcing paper products from China or Indonesia that has not undertaken strict due diligence is at risk of being linked to APP and of driving destruction of Indonesia's rainforests.

Forensic testing: showing international brands linked to rainforest destruction

APP sources mixed tropical hardwoods (MTH) to produce high-quality virgin pulp for use in copy paper, tissue paper, packaging and glossy print materials.

Through forensic testing, Greenpeace investigations identify corporate consumers not only with trade links to APP, but also material links to rainforest destruction. This demonstrates that their trade is not only supporting a destructive company, but is itself directly implicated in the destruction.

The key steps for Greenpeace's investigation to identify links to Indonesia rainforest destruction are as follows:

  1. Identify corporate brands and products with potential links to APP.
  2. Send samples of paper, tissue or packaging materials to one of a small handful of globally recognised testing laboratories used by the paper sector.
  3. There, an expert will prepare and examine the samples to identify the wood species used.
  4. For instance, with packaging, the virgin fibre content of the glossy top layer of packaging board is usually examined to identify the share of MTH - mixed tropical hardwood - or acacia fibre.
  5. The presence of either MTH or acacia strongly indicates that the pulp fibre originates from Indonesia.

These tests have confirmed the presence of MTH and acacia in a range of products produced by APP, from copy paper, to tissue, packaging and glossy printed materials. Such forensic evidence links global brands to the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests.