APP is on the attack but still wont abandon rainforest destruction

by Guest Blogger

November 9, 2011

A few days ago we revealed that Asia Pulp and Paper, the worlds 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, APPs ill-judged advertising campaign, APP cares was called misleading by advertising standards officials in Holland.

APPs 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 didnt base our entire campaign on a single premise. Weve got a mountain of evidence linking APP to rainforest destruction, and it starts with APPs 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 APPs own internal planning documents, which confirm ongoing plans to target rainforest areas in order meet fibre needs.

But, of course, we dont just rely on APPs information. By carrying out overflights of APP concession areas we have repeatedly documented, using GPS images, large scale rainforest clearance by APPs 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, lets 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 didnt ask them to do that. Its 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 APPs 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 APPs 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. Its 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 APPs claims hold less water than a sieve.

All of our evidence has been available for months for everyone to see right here. And well 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.  Wed 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 Nestl 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.

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