Scepticism remains over forest plan of Indonesian logger

Submitted by: Kayla Sessions 13/02/2014

An Indonesian pulp and paper company blacklisted by several Australian retailers hopes its new forest sustainability plan will silence its critics.

Asia Pacific Resources International produces almost three million tonnes of paper products a year from the world's largest integrated pulp mill in Riau, Sumatra.

Riau province is the rainforest home of the endangered Sumatran tiger.

The drastic deforestation also produces much of Indonesia's greenhouse gas output.. making it the third largest emitter, after the United States and China.

Correspondent: Karon Snowdon

Speakers: Phil Aikman, Senior Forest Campaigner with Greenpeace International; David Kerr, April's Operations Manager

SNOWDON: It's the company with the cute name and bad reputation.


APRIL or Asia Pacific Resources International Limited is Indonesia's second largest pulp and paper maker.


In 2011,  Australian outlets of Fuji Xerox and Office Works refused to stock its products after an ABC program exposed its destructive logging practices.


In that program April's Operations Manager, David Kerr told Matt Brown the company observed responsible practices in line with Indonesian government policy.


KERR: If we don't do it the way that we're doing it, it can be even worse.


SNOWDON: But it wasn't good enough for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.


The Geneva based organisation has reviewed APRIL'S membership after it says consistent concerns have been raised by peer companies and NGO's since 2010.


On December 18th last year,  the Council shifted APRIL'S membership to probationary status for 12 months and added:


WBCSD: APRIL'S membership of the Forest Solutions Group (of the WBCSD)  is suspended because of current non-alignment with its membership principles.  


SNOWDON: On 28th of January, APRIL issued its revamped Sustainable Forest Management Policy.


Senior Forest Campaigner with Greenpeace International Phil Aikman is sceptical of the timing and says the policy wont protect forests.


AIKMAN: What they're doing is trying to buy time to continue clearing with a view to becoming 100 per cent plantation fibre by the end of 2019. That effectively means that they're going to continue clearing in their concessions this year and it looks as though they are going to continue to source fibre from rainforest up until the end of 2019.


SNOWDON: APRIL declined to comment except through its press release.


APRIL President Praveen Singhavi: This Policy exceeds any commitment we have ever made, and the Stakeholder Advisory Committee ensures it will be implemented transparently.


SNOWDON: APRIL says it will only log plantation timber from 2019, will not extend its plantation area after this year and will double its forest restoration program, to 40-thousand hectares.


Phil Aikman from Greenpeace says the company has set targets it has failed to meet before.


AIKMAN: Its operations have been going on for well over a decade in Indonesia and they've established a pulp mill without enough plantation fibre. So they've basically been clearing a lot of peat forest and lot of other rainforest, important habitat for tigers etc. And they've been basically trashing these rainforests to feed their mill. Tigers, there are  only 400 left in the wild and they increasingly need some large areas for their survival but unfortunately, APRIL has continued to trash these areas to feed their market. 


SNOWDON: Do you give APRIL no credit for setting these guidelines for itself and setting a timetable. Is it just that the timetable doesn't suit you?


AIKMAN: I think it's good they've announced it but the content is inadequate. We've had at least two meetings with them since last July. In each attempt we've raised our issues but they've failed to listen to us as they've failed to listen to many NGO's in Indonesia. So they've got a lot to prove.


SNOWDON: Asia Pacific has contacted the three large Australian retailers of office products which sell APRIL copy paper and will report their responses on tomorrow's program.