SMG/APP: The pulping continues (July 2012)

EoF Investigative Report / 26 July 2012

Businesses have been increasingly cancelling their contracts with the Chinese-Indonesian Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper conglomerate (SMG/APP) because of the devastating impact the company’s pulp mills have on Indonesia’s natural tropical forests.   In response, APP officials recently released yet another “Sustainability Roadmap” with “new policies” including a temporary halt on forest clearance in a limited part of the company’s supply chain.

Predictably, the new APP policies do not cover the operations of SMG/APP’s pulp mills, the root cause of the deforestation and the reason for the defection of the company’s customers.   The Roadmap does not provide any data on size, location, or forest cover of the concessions covered by its new policies. Further, the company does not provide any data on the volume of natural forest wood its mills pulp, or the chain of custody of that wood supply. 

Given SMG/APP’s lack of transparency, Eyes on the Forest conducted a preliminary evaluation of publicly available data to see what SMG/APP’s new policies may mean for the remaining forests of Sumatra’s Riau Province, the epicenter of SMG/APP’s operations for decades.   In conclusion, there will be little if any conservation impact of SMG/APP’s new policies in Riau. All natural forest in the concessions in which the company claims it will halt logging is already protected by Indonesian law and by the company’s previous protection commitments.

These commitments have mostly been statements confirming that the company would obey the law. Yet, the fate of up to 1.2 million hectares, more than half of Riau’s remaining forest is still at stake, in danger of being cleared by SMG/APP’s so-called “independent suppliers” who can continue to deliver natural forest wood to the company’s mills unaffected by the new forest policies.  In conclusion, SMG/APP’s latest Sustainability Roadmap should be viewed as business-asusual allowing the company to continue feeding its pulp mills with fiber from natural forest clearance. 

It does not have to be that way. There is a clear path forward. Eyes on the Forest suggests some immediate actions for SMG/APP to gain even a minimum of trust of its stakeholders, most importantly  SMG/APP would need to immediately issue a moratorium on the use of natural forest fiber by all of its pulp mills.    

Eyes on the Forest also recommends that SMG/APP’s customers and other business partners:     Cut all ties with APP until the company has proven that its mills no longer rely on fiber from the deforestation of natural tropical forests.