Paper giant broke pact: Greenpeace

SMOKESCREEN::Some activists said that the Indonesian company used the truce with Greenpeace to shield it while building one of the world’s largest pulp and paper mills

AP, BANGKOK

Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 5

Greenpeace has ended a five-year truce with one of the world’s largest paper companies, accusing it of cutting down tropical forests in Indonesia during the entire time the two were cooperating on conservation.

The announcement yesterday, triggered by an Associated Press (AP) investigation, abruptly ends a landmark 2013 agreement in which the environmental group suspended a global campaign against Indonesia’s Sinarmas and its Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) arm in exchange for commitments to end deforestation, land grabs and conflicts with local communities.

The campaign had linked the company’s destruction of forests in Indonesia to boxes used to package Barbie dolls, causing Sinarmas to hemorrhage important customers including Barbie maker Mattel, Xerox, Danone and KFC.

Following AP’s stories in December last year, Greenpeace said its own investigation, which included analysis of satellite imagery, showed that two companies connected to Sinarmas cleared nearly 8,000 hectares of forest and peatland in Borneo during the five years it was advising the family-owned conglomerate on forest conservation.

The evidence shows that Sinarmas is “not genuinely serious” about stopping deforestation in Indonesia, said Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia forests campaign.

“The group must immediately come clean,” he said. “Stop the bulldozers and restore what was destroyed.”

“It’s only this action that can save APP and Sinarmas from further campaigns and contract cancelations by customers,” he said.

Sinarmas did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Indonesia is chopping down its rainforests faster than any other country, profiting paper and palm oil conglomerates, while causing chronic social and environmental problems.

Rapid forest loss and greenhouse gas emissions have made Indonesia the fourth-biggest contributor to global warming after China, the US and India.

The country’s emissions soared in 2015 when record dry-season fires, worsened by draining of swampy peatland forests for plantations and El Nino weather conditions, burned 25,900km2 of plantations and forests.

The smoke blanketed much of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand in a haze that a Harvard and Columbia study said hastened about 100,000 deaths.

The AP investigation found extensive links between Sinarmas, its pulp and paper and forestry arms, and nearly all the 27 plantation wood suppliers it had told the outside world were independent in an apparent attempt to greenwash its image.

Most of the wood suppliers were based in Sinarmas offices and owned by employees of the Sinarmas group, although in some cases they were former employees.

Using drone photos and satellite images, AP found that plantation company Muara Sungai Landak, one of the two companies now accused of deforestation by Greenpeace, had been cutting down tropical forest for several years on land it has a government permit to exploit.

The tropical wood was being turned into pellets marketed as a sustainable energy source.

Government records that track levies companies pay when cutting tropical timber on such so-called concession lands also showed the deforestation taking place.

Corporate records showed that Muara Sungai Landak is owned by two employees of Sinarmas Forestry and one of several plantation companies not included in Sinarmas’ list of official suppliers, but with which they share some of the same Sinarmas-linked owners.

Greenpeace said its investigation showed that Muara Sungai Landak had razed nearly 3,000 hectares of forest since 2013.

Sinarmas “refused to refute” evidence it was owned by its employees, it said.

Plantation company Hutan Rindang Banua, which is owned by the Singapore stock exchange-listed coal mining arm of Sinarmas, has cut down nearly 5,000 hectares of forest in Borneo since 2013, Greenpeace said.

Annual reports of Singapore-listed coal company Golden Energy and Resources showed that its Hutan Rindang Banua unit cuts down natural forest.

Other environmental groups questioned Greenpeace’s 2013 agreement with Sinarmas due to mistrust of the company given its long history of land grabs and environmental destruction.

Some activists said that the conglomerate’s owners used the truce with Greenpeace as a shield from criticism, while their business empire built a pulp and paper mill in Sumatra that is among the world’s largest and significantly increases demand for wood.

The environmental group’s own due diligence before entering the agreement did not find the extensive links between Sinarmas and the suppliers it characterized as independent.

Greenpeace credited Sinarmas with making some progress during the five years they worked together, but also said it failed to “provide a credible response or to take meaningful action” when given the findings of its investigations.