Imagine a company clear-cutting the last Sumatra rainforests. Imagine the environmental groups asking them to stop the conversion of rainforests into plantations, and meanwhile, bit after bit, the company keeping converting them, to reach the astronomical number of 2 millions ha deforestation, most of it being high conservation value forests, peatlands or habitat of endangered species, such as Sumatran tiger, elephant or orangutan. Then, suddenly the company announce with a lot of media noise that it will suspend the conversion. You would be happy, wouldn't be? But then, if you read the exact words of the announcement, you get an other reality: the company will suspend the conversion ONLY in the owned land. Is it a problem? Yes, it is, since the conversion is happening elsewhere, in public land given to this company in concession. This means: the conversion will keep going on, despite the clamorous announcements.
This is not an hypothetical story. It's the yesterday announcement by the paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). The company organized a press conference in Jakarta for the breaking news of the Indonesian forests: "APP Announces New Policies on High Conservation Value Forest" including "the immediate suspension of natural forest clearance on its own pulpwood plantations in Indonesia".
But a questions rises: how much do they really own? What's the real impact on their supply chain? What's the extensions of area affected by the new policy? What are the "APP owned concessions in Indonesia" and what they consider not to be "owned"? No figure is available. Many argue that APP has already cleared most of the natural forest on concessions covered by this announcement. WWF estimates that out of the remaining 206,412 hectares, only 22,000 hectares would be affected by the announcement, while the rest were “already designated or by regulation must be protected." If the company really wanted to reduce its footprint on Sumatra’s tropical forests, APP should immediately issue a moratorium on the use of natural forest fiber by any of its pulp mills
Otherwise, why don't let the representatives of environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace Indonesia, to access at the press conference of such an announcement, if APP is serious and it had nothing to hide?
Already in 2006 APP committed to protect high conservation value forests. Since them their caterpillar continued to clear-cut vaste area of these forests in critical habitat such as the landscapes of Senepis Sumatran Tiger Sanctuary, the Giam Siak Kecil Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO, the Bukit Tigapuluh tiger habitat, including in area identified as high conservation value forests by the company itself, as well documented with photo and maps by the Indonesian coalition Eyes on the Forest.
"It could have been so different if APP followed the approach taken by their sister company in the Sinar Mas Group, Golden Agri Resources - say Greenpeace in its blog - GAR introduced a forest conservation policy last year that committed the company to not develop its plantations on forests or peatland. If APP wanted to convince customers and other stakeholders that it’s changing, why didn’t it follow GAR’s lead?"