Busted! Rainforest Destroyer and Its US Customers Exposed
by Amy Moas
July 8, 2014
Customers are suspending contracts with Indonesia’s second largest pulp and paper company APRIL, which is part of the Royal Golden Eagle Group, as photographic evidence from Greenpeace shows continued destruction of rainforests and fire-prone peatland. The Greenpeace evidence comes just a week after a new study shows Indonesias forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world.
Office supplies chain Staples recently confirmed that it no longer stocks APRIL products globally, after Greenpeace identified links to the company in China. Antalis has also confirmed that it will not resume business with APRIL until it implements a Forest Conservation Policy. Greenpeace urges all customers of RGE /APRIL, such as the world’s largest paper company International Paper, 3M and US retailer Costco, to urgently follow their lead.
RGE/APRIL has been caught telling its customers it has support from governments and NGOs at the exact same time its bulldozers are out trashing Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands. International and US companies continue to fall for RGE/APRILs public relations spin while supporting devastating forest destruction.
A Greenpeace ‘flyover’ in late May documented ongoing clearance of dense rainforest, and the drainage of peatlands at the site of an APRIL supplier on Padang Island off the coast of Riau. By contrast, its main competitor, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), put in place a No Deforestation policy more than a year ago, and recently committed to protect and restore 1 million hectares of forest.
RGE/APRIL knows that there is a growing movement of organizations and people demanding it stop the destruction. However, rather than reform its operations, the RGE Group is spending its money on a charm offensive. Earlier this year, APRIL launched a Sustainable Forest Management Policy accompanied by a series of blogs that portrayed it as a responsible corporate citizen and the victim of mean, deceitful NGO campaigns. This is simply not true.
Here are the top six myths RGE/APRIL wants you to believe…all being used to cover its ongoing rainforest destruction.
Myth #1: “APRIL is not deforesting Indonesia”
Last year APRIL’s then-public relations director was busted in an interview with The Guardian claiming that APRIL isn’t involved in deforestation (from 2.30 minutes onwards it’s well worth a watch!). He left the company soon after, but we have again caught APRIL making this baffling claim in a leaked customer briefing, claiming “We reforest, not deforest”. RGE/APRIL implies that tearing down a rainforest and replacing it with a monoculture plantation is actually a good thing!
Recently deforested peatland inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) concession on Pulau Pedang, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. 05/30/2014 Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace. 10’53″N 10218’24″E.
In May, we visited one of RGE/APRIL’s concessions in Padang Island, Sumatra. The company has claimed to protect high conservation value forest since 2005 (here, first paragraph) but apparently this dense natural forest on swampy deep peat didn’t meet the criteria set out in these ‘rigorous assessments’. APRIL refuses to make its assessments public, but it’s crystal clear that they don’t include identifying and protecting forested areas like this, as our exclusive photos show.
Recent large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) concession on Pulau Pedang, Riau Province. 05/20/2014 Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace. 10’59″N 10217’39″E.
Myth #3: RGE/APRIL claims its sustainable forest management policy has “strong support from external stakeholders”.
APRIL likes to pretend that WWF and even the Norwegian Government are on its side – see below a letter they sent to a customer.
However WWF have actually said that APRIL’s policy“needs to be strengthened and more clearly defined”. It should “extend its commitment to the rest of the RGE group of companies” and include “a moratorium on all forest and land clearance and peat development activities”. RGE/APRIL has yet to do any of these things.
Myth #4: APRIL does not source from High Conservation Value (HCV) forests, as proven by peer reviewed, independent assessments.
The fact is, APRIL does not make its HCV assessments publicly available. The organization APRIL claims has peer reviewed all of them – the HCV Resource network – has told us it has done nothing of the sort. It has only peer reviewed the assessments for two concessions, neither of which are on Padang Island. Greenpeace has obtained confidential information (RGE/APRIL has never published information on their supply base) which showed that APRIL is supplied by approximately 50 concessions.
Drainage of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, Riau Province.05/20/2014 Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace 11’53″N 10217’57″E
Myth #5: Forest fires? Don’t blame us, we have a No Burning Policy.
APRIL says it banned burning on its concessions 20 years ago. But forest fires don’t just happen spontaneously. Drained peat soil is highly flammable, and when companies like RGE/APRIL drain these areas as can be seen in this image – they create a tinderbox. Peat swamps hold billions of tonnes of carbon and when drained and burned, they can become disaster for the global climate.
Scorched peatland forest inside the PT Sumatra Riang Lestari (PT SRL) pulpwood concession in Rupat Island, in Riau Province. PT SRL is a supplier to APRIL. 05/20/2014 Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace: 155’8″N 10133’49″E.
Myth # 6: Forest fires? Don’t blame us, it’s the local communities’ fault.
Indonesia suffered from an unusual peak in fire hot spots during in February and March this year, and RGE/APRIL was quick to lay the blame on local communities. But fire hotspots, based on 2011 data, were 3.5 times more frequent on deforested peatland than on peatland that hadn’t been cleared by unscrupulous companies like APRIL. It’s like dousing your house in gasoline and blaming a passing smoker when it all goes up in flames.
This is what RGE/APRIL’s sustainable forest management looks like: more deforestation, more drainage of peatland, more lose of wildlife habitat and the risk of yet more forest fires. The evidence speaks for itself. Until APRIL and all plantation companies in the RGE Group stop the bulldozers and implement a No Deforestation Policy, everyone that does business with the Group is contributing to one of the worst environmental crises in the world.
Who are RGE/APRIL’s customers?
These companies are known customers of the RGE/APRIL for pulp/paper based products: the company behind Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape 3M, American pulp and paper company International Paper, and US retailer Costco.
Office supplies chain, Staples, recently confirmed to Greenpeace that it will not stock APRIL products globally, after Greenpeace identified links to the company in China. Antalis has also confirmed that it won’t buy from APRIL until it implements a Forest Conservation Policy.
It’s time all RGE/APRIL’s customers follow their lead and get out of the business of supporting destruction.
Who finances this deforestation?
According to Reuters, Santander Bank, based in Spain, and ABN Amro in the Netherlands are among the companies, which recently provided financing for RGE Group pulp interests in China. Both banks claim to have sustainability policies in place to guide their lending in the forest sector.
Greenpeace has recently contacted all of these companies, demanding that they suspend engagement with RGE until the group ends its involvement in deforestation. It’s time APRIL and all RGE related pulp companies cut the greenwash and cleaned up their act.