Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL)

Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited, or APRIL, is Indonesia’s second largest pulp and paper producer. It develops fibre plantations and it is the owner of one of the world’s largest pulp and paper mills. It also has operations in China. APRIL mainly produces bleached hardwood kraft pulp and uncoated, wood-free paper.

APRIL is part of the Indonesian Royal Golden Eagle Group (RGE), owned by Indonesian businessman Sukanto Tanoto, who also owns Toba Pulp Lestari, Sateri, and Asian Agri. Royal Golden Eagle is a holding company which has activities ranging from paper, palm oil, construction, and energy business sectors. It also owns palm oil firm Asian Agri.

APRIL is also the world’s second largest producer of bleached hardwood kraft pulp. In addition to its own paper production, the company’s pulp is used by paper companies in China, Korea, Indonesia, India, Japan, and Europe.

APRIL is based in Singapore, and is part of the Royal Golden Eagle group (RGE), which also includes the affiliated paper companies Asia Symbol, A P Rizhao, Ascend, Asia Pacific Forest Products, Asia Paper, Asia Pacific Rayon (APR), Blue Dot Resources, Canfor April, Florindo, Dmai Fibre, Gold Silk Holdings, Greenpoint Global, Gold Leaf Holdings, Headington Investment, Hibiscus Bay Investment, International Woodchip Corporation, Newmarket Fibre Suppl., Nova, Pacific Eagle, Pacific Pulp, Pacific Viscose, Peiterson Investment, Primeyiel, Adindo Hutani Lestari Anugerah Kertas Utama, Asia Prima Kimiaraya, Berkatnugraha Sinarlestari, Intiguna Primatana, ITCI Hutani Manunggal, Kalimantan Prima Services Indonesia, Kutai Chip Mill, Permata Timur, Riau Andalan Kertas, Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, Riau Prima Energi, Sumatera Riang Lestari Shandong Asia Pacific SSYMB, Yatai Senbo, Suzhou Ascend Pulp & Paper, Suzhou Industrial Park Asia Pacific

APRIL’s paper products are sold in over 75 countries globally under a variety of brands such as: PaperOne, A Plus, APRIL Premium, ARIA, Ace, All Pass, Artica, Ascend, Asia Symbol, Asiabase, Brand names: B/K, Baishun, Board One, Combat King, Copy & Laser, Crystal, Dunia Mas, Enjoy, Excellent Copy, Gaopinle, Gold Bo, Golden Color, Lazer IT, Noval, PK King Kong, Perfect Print, Pioneer, Premium (Inkjet, Laser, Pre-print+, Script, Riaupulp Acacia, Riaupulp MTH, SSYMB Pulp, Tinkle, To Crown, Ya Wen, Zap

The company’s primary mills are in Indonesia and China, including subsidiary Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), which operates one of the world’s largest paper mills in Riau Province, Sumatra. APRIL’s fibre is sourced primarily from Indonesia and Latin America. Main brands are PaperOne

Companies directly associated with APRIL include: APRIL Fine Paper Trading Pte Ltd, APRIL Fine Paper Trading Ltd., LwarcelCelulose, Alkira Trading (Macao Commercial Offshore) Limited, Asia Symbol, AP Enterprises (Macao) Commercial Offshore Limited, Primeyield Enterprise Pte Ltd, APRIL Fine Paper Macao Commercial Offshore Limited, APRIL Fine Paper (Guangdong) Co. Ltd.,  Shandong Asia Pacific SSYMB Pulp and Paper, Suzhou Industrial Park Asia Pacific Paper Converting, Suzhou Ascend Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd.

Other companies controlled by APRIL owner Sukanto Tanoto, include Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL), Sateri and Asia Pacific Rayon (APR). TPL is involved in social conflicts with indigenous Batak people in North Sumatra, for converting their ancestral forests that provided them clean watersheds and shelter, medicine, food, and livelihoods. Sateri is the world’s largest producer of viscose staple fibre (VSF), based in China. APR produces rayon for Sateri, in a “fully integrated viscose rayon producer in Asia from plantation to viscose fibre” inside the APRIL mill of Kerinci.

 

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Environmental & social impacts

APRIL started its forestry activities in 1993 and commercial pulp production in 1998. Since then, its paper production has grown at the cost of Indonesian rainforests. The conversion of natural rainforests into tree plantations inevitably reduces the habitat of these species, driving them to extinction. As an example, in 2005 APRIL started to clear the precious rainforests of in Bukit Tigapuluh and Kerumutan landscapes, some of the last habitat of the Sumatran Tiger.

Between 2008-9 and 2011, APRIL suppliers cleared at least 140,000 hectares of natural forests. More than a quarter of all forest loss in the Riau province has been done to provide wood for APRIL mills.

Indigenous people and other local communities have been also massively impacted by APRIL’s forest conversion. Communities that rely on cultivating rubber, sago, and other crops within the forest landscape have been at issue with APRIL since 2009, including on Riau’s Kampar Peninsula and coastal islands, causing some residents to resort to drastic protest measures, including sewing their mouths shut.

In 2013, FSC had  “disassociated” itself from APRIL, for that company “being involved in large-scale deforestation activities in Indonesia and bringing negative social and environmental impacts to areas with high conservation values.”

For more detailed analysis of APRIL’s social and environmental risk and its violations of its 2014 forest policy, see this February 2015 Fact Sheet from the European Environmental Paper Network.

New policy, implementation & failures

In June 2015, after many years of campaigning to stop deforestation by APRIL and after many brands started to avoid their products, APRIL announced a Sustainable Forest Management Policy version 2.0 (SFMP 2.0) (http://www.aprilasia.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-policy), which includes a commitment to zero deforestation and an immediate stop to clearing of natural forests.  The new policy is within a “Sustainability Framework” developed by its parent, RGE Group.

Civil society organisations in the Environmental Paper Network welcomed the move in various tones. But all remain cautious, waiting to look how the policy will be implemented on the ground. Local and international NGOs announced they will be monitoring the implementation of the policy by APRIL.

However, APRIL’s implementation of its own commitments has been unsatisfactory:

  • Social conflicts: there has been little change for communities embroiled in land disputes with the company. Hundreds of land conflicts remain and APRIL has failed to involve affected communities and other key stakeholders in the identification, analysis and resolution of these conflicts.  According to APRIL, just one supplier (PT RAPP) and its partners have 880 unresolved conflicts, involving at least (in the few known cases) 21,000 ha of land. The report Conflict Plantations chapter II shows that in just five provinces of Indonesia, at least 101 villages or communities are in active conflict with affiliates of APRIL, or its suppliers, while 529 villages may have been impacted by their forestry operations, involving an area larger than one million ha.This is equivalent to a financial risk assessed between USD 0.5 and 4.3 billion in social compensation risk
  • Greenhouse emissions: despite APRIL claiming to manage its plantations on peat according to “best management practices”, these practices have been shown to insufficiently curb drainage effects in the long term.  According to a scientific field study based on APRIL’s concessions in Indonesia, the release of CO2 from an acacia plantation on peat has been identified as around 80 tonnes per year per hectare. APRIL supplier plantation on peat stretches on more than 265,000 ha. As a result, APRIL’s plantations emit 19.4 million tonnes GHG, nearly as much as the whole country of Slovenian, and as much as 24 low emitting countries combined. In 2017, the company has been also repeatedly sanctioned for violations to the new peat legislation. and tried to keep official inspection out of its concessions.  When in October 2017 the government declared invalid the work-plan of its major the biggest subsidiary and plantation company, PT RAPP , APRIL responded by bullying the government, threatening mass firing to mobilize workers against the government, and suing the government itself with a court case that APRIL eventually lost. This way APRIL showed how reluctant actually it is to implement protection and conservation of their peatland areas.
  • Deforestation: Violation of the zero deforestation commitment has been discovered soon after the new policy has been issued. Recently APRIL has been found by NGOs in sourcing by plantation companies involved in deforestation. APRIL did not even admit its wrongdoing. In November 2018, APRIL supplier PT Tanjung Redeb Hutani (TRH), was found still clearing the equivalent of 190,000 football fields to expand its pulpwood plantations in East Kalimantan
  • Forest Fires: In autumn 2015, APRIL was identified as one of the top companies responsible for the fires occurred in Indonesia, burning 2.6 million hectares of plantations, forests and peatlands throughout Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua. An estimated 1.75 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent was released in just a few months, more than Germany or Japan’s total annual emissions. Daily emissions during the peak weeks of the fires exceeded the daily fossil fuel emissions of the entire USA economy.  The fires created a smoke and haze crisis affecting all of South East Asia, triggering national emergencies across Indonesia and into Singapore, Malaysia and other countries, resulting in diplomatic tensions between Indonesia and its neighbouring countries.  The human cost was terrible: 19 people died and an estimated 500,000 cases of respiratory tract infections were reported at the time of the fires. It is estimated that the fires led to more than 100,000 premature deaths in the region.  A public health study estimated that 91,600 people in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore may have died prematurely in 2015 because of exposure to fine particle pollution. The economic cost of the fires was calculated at around US$16 billion (IDR 221 trillion), equivalent to 1.9 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product. . The lesson was not learnt, as in August 2018 APRIL supplier (PT Sumatera Riang Lestari) had its concession on peat restoration areas razed by fires. In Autumn 2019 a new peat-fires and haze crisis, also related to pulpwood plantations on dried peat, led to the closure of thousands of schools across Sumatra. The report Perpetual Haze highlights the role of Indonesia’s pulp industry in recurring fire and haze episodes affecting the Southeast Asian region.
  • Transparency: according to an investigative report, based on the Panama Papers  April has shuffled billions of dollars through a web of offshore companies stretching from the Cook Islands in the South Pacific to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. This permitted to receive financing form banks despite being involved in the forest fires in Indoensia.
  • Expansion of production Despite a commitment to keep any increase its production expansion within the availability of sustainable fibre to source them, APRIL continued expanding beyond that capacity, including development of a dissolving pulp production line at APRIL’s Kerinci mill complex with a possible capacity of 350,000 tons/year. APRIL is also developing the Kutai Chip Mill (KCM) – which supplies wood chip to its sister company Asia Symbol in China, processing up to one million tonnes of wood.
  • Expansion by acquisitions: In September 2018, APRIL/RGE completed the takeover of the Brazilian pulp producer Lwarcel Celulose (250,000 tpy) The company plan a further expansion of its production capacity of 750,000 tpy including a new pulp mill in Mato Grosso do Sul (Brazil) that could lead to further deforestation in the region.

Latest developments

Indonesian and International NGOs have been monitoring APRIL’s progress and becoming more and more sceptical. In December 2016, both Greenpeace and WWF broke off their engagement with APRIL , with the final straw being the discovery of 3km of canals through deep peat on Padang Island off the eastern coast of Sumatra, in violation of its own sustainability standards, government regulations and a letter of instruction issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry the previous year asking companies to block existing canals. APRIL remains disassociated from the certification standard FSC.

In December 2017, various NGOs published a new document, Evaluating the Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Performance of Sinar Mas Group (SMG) and Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Companies Criteria and Indicators for Assessing and Verifying Performance to set specific measurable performance requirements and independently verify the on-the-ground performance of APP, APRIL and affiliates.  These Performance Verification Criteria and Indicators have been developed to provide a clear framework for APP/Sinar Mas and the APRIL/Royal Golden Eagle groups to be measured against, so that companies and other stakeholders can adequately evaluate performance. In addition, these Criteria and Indicators will inform the critical Forest Stewardship Council process of developing “Roadmaps” toward a possible reversal of their disassociation of APP and APRIL.

Purchaser Guidance

Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Canopy, WWF, as well as a number of Indonesian organizations and other members of the Environmental Paper Network encourage buyers and investors to avoid brands and papers containing APRIL fibre and all links to RGE/Royal Eagle Group and the sister company Toba Pulp Lestari, which is also controlled by RGE’s owner, Mr. Sukanto Tanoto.