Paper Giant Sinar Mas to Greenpeace: Stop Targeting Developing Countries

Greenpeace protest against Sinar Mas

Many corporations have scrambled to update their sustainability standards after Greenpeace attacks. Both Apple and Trader Joe's have made strides in producing non-toxic electronics and selling sustainably-farmed fish, respectively, since being targeted by the environmental group. But Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) a subsidiary of Sinar Mas, is taking a hard-line approach to Greenpeace's accusations.

The company was recently targeted by Greenpeace in a report entitled "How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet". According to the report, APP is responsible for the destruction of two important rainforest areas in Sumatra—the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape, a haven for tiger and orangutans, and Kerumutan, a spot filled with "carbon-rich" peatlands. APP uses logs from both areas to feed pulp mills that distribute paper and pulp around the world. But Aida Greenbury, managing director, sustainability and stakeholder engagement for APP, believes that Greenpeace's accusations are misguided.

"I don't know why Greenpeace is attacking developing countries when British and American countries are poisoning the earth," she says. "I haven't heard from Greenpeace [that they are] helping BP try to address solutions. Instead, they are busily attacking private companies in Indonesia for something they didn't do."

In the Sinar Mas report, Greenpeace claims that APP is encroaching upon land filled with endangered species habitats. Not true, says Greenbury. The company purportedly doesn't use wood from "high conservation value" forests.

And as for Greenpeace's request that APP makes sure "that any virgin fiber is certified to the standards of Forest Stewardship Council or an equivalent system?" Impossible, Greenbury explains. She points to FSC principle 10.9, which states that "Plantations established in areas converted from natural forests after November 1994 normally shall not qualify for certification." Most plantations in Indonesia were established after 1996, making the request extremely difficult.

Of course, Greenpeace would also be satisfied with some sort of equivalent standard. And it's not as if APP's problems stem from niggling FSC rules—the Forest Stewardship Council went so far as to rescind its approval of APP products in 2007, explaining that APP goes against its mission.

But Greenbury believes that Greenpeace is misdirecting its attacks. "[Greenpeace] is attacking Indonesian policy on allocating land use for development. It makes sense for them to work together with the Indonesian government to find a workable solution instead of attacking private companies."

While Greenbury says that Greenpeace's report haven't yielded any negative input from APP customers and stakeholders, Sinar Mas as a whole has already felt the wrath of Greenpeace's allegations. In the past few years, customers like Nestle, Kraft, and Unilever have begun to cut Sinar Mas palm oil out of their supply chains. We imagine that the same will soon happen for the company's pulp and paper business—regardless of whether Greenpeace's accusations are wrongheaded.

 

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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