July 15, 2020, Jakarta.  As the fire season looms in Indonesia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia revealed that Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest pulp and paper company, owned by the Sinar Mas Group, has been actively clearing Sumatran peatland for pulpwood plantations in direct breach of its own commitments to preserve and restore carbon-rich ecosystems and reduce emissions. Major brands such as Unilever, Nestlé, Askul and Woolworths are still supplied by APP, which today, is gathering its stakeholders in a forum focused on sustainability.

Using recent analysis of satellite imagery, Greenpeace has proved that between August 2018 and June 2020, around 3,500 ha of peatland was destroyed in three concessions either owned or that are major suppliers to APP and 50 hectares burned in late June on one of these concessions. The data also shows that in the same period approximately 53 km of drainage canals were dug, despite commitments made by the company in 2013 to end its role in deforestation and introduce new conservation and  peatland protection pledges

‘Plantation companies are legally responsible for any fires on their land, yet APP flouts the law and evades justice, escaping with little more than a slap on the wrist. They backtrack on their commitments to protect and restore the ecosystems they have destroyed. This makes a mockery of their attempts to talk about sustainability approaches with their stakeholders. No company that claims to care about the environment can continue to trade with APP’, said Kiki Taufik, Global Head of the Indonesia forests campaign at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Canals like the ones found on APP’s concessions are cut through the peat to drain and dry it in preparation for growing pulpwood plantations. But when the vegetation on the land is cleared by burning, the dry peatland can ignite and burn for months, causing a poisonous haze that blankets surrounding areas and has been driving an annual health crisis across the region

‘The most feared time of the year for all Indonesians is just starting and while we worry about our children’s health and hope for a mild dry season, APP is enabling fires to clear land.  Companies sourcing from them are supporting forest destruction and fueling the annual toxic haze that sickens millions across the region,’ says Taufik.

APP’s track record on the environment, people and climate

In March 2013, APP bowed to pressure from NGOs and its customers and adopted a Forest Conservation Policy (FCP). APP committed to ending forest clearance within its own and suppliers’ concessions, protect remaining forests in these areas, improve management of peatland and work with communities to resolve social conflicts. In April 2014 APP committed to protect and restore 1 million hectares of tropical rainforest in April 2014. In the 6 years since this commitment, APP has restored only a small area (5000 hectares) of peatland out of a targeted area of 78,000 ha (APP 2019 FCP Progress Update. 20th March. Stakeholder Advisory Forum.)

Sinar Mas Group’s combined emissions from its companies Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) are equivalent to nearly 3.5 times Singapore’s annual emissions, according to a Greenpeace International analysis published at the end of last year.

Despite relentless efforts to hide its connections to destructive operations, an Associated Press investigation revealed APP’s extensive behind-the-scenes ties and significant influence over wood suppliers linked to fires and deforestation

APP is a founding member of the High Carbon Stock Approach, therefore is committed to no expansion onto peatland no matter what the depth of the peat.

APP has been responsible for the destruction of huge areas of forest and peatland which are home to tigers, elephants and orangutans. In May this year, a critically endangered Sumatran tiger was found dead in the PT Arara Abadi concession, the second one trapped in plantation sites connected to APP. The tiger which had been trapped in a poachers’ snare died after days without access to food and water.

APP has been accused of numerous human rights violations in Sumatra. Over 90 local and international NGOs called on business partners of APP to suspend deals with the company until the company had made “radical changes” across its business.

Notes for editors:

Between 2015 and 2018, more than 3.4 million hectares of land burned in Indonesia, an area larger than Singapore. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, much of it due to its peatland fires and ongoing deforestation mostly to produce commodities such as palm oil and pulp.

Plantation development is a root cause of Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires. In 2015, devastating blazes spread in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. These fires produced a haze that affected millions of people across Southeast Asia. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities estimate that the smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires may have caused 100,000 premature deathsThe World Bank calculated the cost of the disaster at US$16bn.

Following the 2015 fires, President Joko Widodo set up an agency to restore about 2 million hectares of damaged peatland and promised to hold companies to account for fires on their land. However, almost none of the palm oil and pulp companies whose concessions had the largest areas of burned land have been punished through serious government sanctions.

Contacts

Sol Gosetti, International Communications Coordinator, Indonesia Forest campaign, sol.gosetti@greenpeace.org, +44 (0) 7807352020