Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and WWF have claimed that the pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) is dodging an independent enquiry into its deforestation practices in Indonesia by withdrawing from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). On June 22nd 2013, the FSC announced that APRIL had asked its certification bodies to withdraw all of its FSC Chain of Custody (COC) certificates.
The three environmental organizations had earlier lodged a complaint with the FSC that APRIL was in violation of FSCâ€™s Policy for Association through its continued large-scale conversion of natural forests in Indonesia to plantations, including the destruction of high conservation value (HCV) forests. The company also has persistent social conflicts in its operations.
In a statement responding to FSCâ€™s announcement, APRIL stated that its decision â€˜not to hold or seek FSC CoC/CW certification for the foreseeable future is based on concerns about the FSCâ€™s Policy for Associationâ€™.
The FSC Policy for Association is in place to ensure that the FSC only associates with companies committed to fundamental principles of responsible forest management. It requires that a company holding FSC CoC certificates not be involved in the conversion of HCV forest and must not have converted an area of forest covering more than 10,000 ha within the past five years.
APRIL also holds COC certificates under the other major forest certification scheme, the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) However, the NGOs could not file a complaint to PEFC as it doesnâ€™t have a Policy of Association.
â€œBy quitting the FSC, APRIL is avoiding independent scrutiny of its operations as presented in the NGOâ€™s formal complaint to the FSC. It is effectively admitting its deforestation practices are incompatible with the FSCâ€ says Aditya Bayunanda from WWF Indonesia.
â€œBetween 2007 and 2012, APRIL and its suppliers in the Riau province, Indonesia, have converted close to 200,000 ha of Sumatraâ€™s rainforests to plantations. Much of that was vital forest habitat for critically endangered Sumatran elephants and tigers.â€
â€œCompanies like APRIL that are dependent on rainforest destruction are provoking social conflict through a failure to respect customary rights over land. Such operations are clearly unsustainable,â€ said Lafcadio Cortesi from RAN. â€œBy walking away from the FSC, APRIL is sending a clear signal to the market that it has no intention of stopping its destructive operations. Contrary claims by APRIL are no more than greenwash.â€
â€œAPRIL is now the largest driver of deforestation for pulp in Indonesia. In 2012 alone, its suppliers planned to clear around 60,000 ha of rainforest,â€ said Zulfahmi from Greenpeace Southeast Asia. â€œGreenpeace is calling on any company buying from APRIL to cancel these contracts until APRIL finally cleans up its act and stops trashing rainforests.â€
WWF, Greenpeace and RAN are calling on APRIL to immediately stop all natural forest clearance in all of its own and suppliersâ€™ concession and commit to a comprehensive zero deforestation policy as first steps. The NGOs also call on the FSC to ensure that any company associated with deforestation, such as companies related to the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) group of which APRIL is part, are not allowed to hold FSC certificates.