Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL) has released a new Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP). The company will establish a moratorium on clearing in concessions where there has not been independent assessment of conservation values. APRIL also promised that it will complete plantation establishment by the end of 2014.

APRIL is one of the most controversial paper companies, having cleared tropical rain forests of Sumatra, violating local community’s rights, threatening endangered species such as Sumatran Tiger, and releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere by converting peatlands into pulpwood plantations.

WWF cautiously welcomed the announcement, noting that the policy still “allows for APRIL to utilize wood from tropical forests in its mill until the end of 2019.” WWF is urging APRIL to stop using fibre from natural forests by 2014.

Woro, of Jikalahari, the environmental network of Riau, Indonesia, expressed more skepticism: “There is strong evidence that APRIL broke its own previous commitment regarding sustainable forest management. In the past this company announced an HCVF assessment in the Kampar Peninsula, but afterwards APRIL continued to convert these forests. Until now, APRIL has been involved in forest crimes and unsustainable forest practices, and we don’t have good reason to look at this new policy as a promising development.”

Lafcadio Cortesi, of Rainforest Action Network, responded to the policy by saying, “This new commitment is a missed opportunity which raises as many questions as it answers. The policy is limited in scope and has large loopholes and major gaps. It sends a clear signal to customers, investors as well as the companies colleagues in the World Business Council on Sustainable Development that APRIL and all of Sukanto Tanoto’s holdings should remain no go, no buy.”

Zulfahmi of Greenpeace Southeast Asia states that, “APRIL’s carefully orchestrated policy announcement is essentially a licensce to continue forest clearance. A glaring weakness is that it would allow its current suppliers to continue to destroy forest and peatlands for nearly a year, and give it another six more years until it would stop using rainforest fibre at its mill.”

“Before being accepted as a non controversial business partner, APRIL should also take its responsibility for the precious habitat destroyed in the past years, and commit to restore devastated habitats and return land to local communities” concluded Sergio Baffoni, of the European Environmental Paper Network. “Our member NGOs advise companies to continue avoiding any business with this company until a credible policy is adopted and implemented on the ground.”