As the fire season looms in Indonesia, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies, 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.

Recent analysis of satellite imagery by Greenpeace has proven 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.

Tension has been increasing in the past months around global paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) pulpwood concessions in Indonesia. Lately, Indigenous communities have been facing recurrent acts of intimidation, criminalisation and episodes of violence have escalated, contributing to a climate of insecurity and constant threat.

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.

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.

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 deaths. The World Bank calculated the cost of the disaster at US$16 billion

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. 

More from Greenpeace Southeast Asia can be found here.