Several multinational companies have vowed to boycott the huge forestry conglomerate, Asia Pulp and Paper, after a public outcry after evidence emerged of illegal logging by APP in Indonesia, that is damaging the habitat of rare animals such as the Sumatran tiger.
Pressure has been growing on APP, its suppliers and customers, since the Guardian revealed last month evidence of illegal logging that had resulted in the chopping down of large numbers of a protected tree species, known as ramin, which grows in some of the last remaining bastions of the critically endangered tiger in south-east Asia.
A year-long Greenpeace investigation uncovered clear and independently verified evidence to show that ramin trees from the Indonesian rainforest had been chopped down and sent to factories to be pulped and turned into paper. The name ramin refers to a collection of endangered trees, protected under Indonesian law, growing in peat swamps in Indonesia where the small number of remaining Sumatran tigers hunt.
The three large companies – all household names – have now said they will suspend purchases from APP, either permanently or until they can be satisfied that the paper and associated products are being produced sustainably. They are Danone, the food giant whose brands include Cow & Gate, Actimel and Volvic; Xerox, the IT and printing supplies company; and a branch of the Collins publishing group. The Guardian understands that other companies are also considering whether to take similar action on the issue.
Danone said: “In view of the questions raised about APP, and as a precautionary measure, Danone group has decided to suspend all purchases from this supplier wherever possible under law, until the situation has been clarified and confirmed by independent stakeholders. This suspension will apply to all group subsidiaries in all affected countries.”
The company, which uses APP for about 1.5% of its cardboard packaging, amounting to about 7,500 metric tonnes, will suspend purchases from APP from June.
Xerox confirmed a longstanding ban on purchasing from APP, after an investigation revealed that at least one of the company’s subsidiaries had been using APP as recently as last year. Xerox said: “While at one time APP was a Xerox supplier, our corporate direction has been to cease doing business with APP on a global basis. This direction was put in place years ago and is based on our stringent paper sourcing guidelines. While we have confirmed that no Xerox branded products have been sourced from APP since implementing our ban in 2002, we have uncovered that a Xerox European entity bought and resold APP branded paper as recently as 2011. This was against the company’s purchasing protocols. The activity has since ceased, corrective actions have been taken, and we are reinforcing our policy — banning any purchase of paper from APP.”
Collins Debden, the diary publisher, said: “In response to customer and market demands, Collins Debden does not procure raw material originating from Asia Pulp & Paper.”
APP said it was “committed to ensure that its operations, control systems and chain of custody process is in accordance with Indonesian law. The Ministry of Forestry has issued public statements regarding the investigation process for the Ramin issue, and therefore APP will provide update on the matter once the process is completed.”
In a statement in response to the original report, the company said it had rigorous standards in place to prevent any illegal material entering its supply chain, but added: “No system in the world, no matter how rigorous, is 100% failsafe.”
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Having been exposed for destroying the rainforests and using internationally protected ramin wood in Indonesia, APP are now paying the price for their poor environmental policies. The only way APP can stop losing customers is to become a responsible supplier of paper and packaging products.”
Chopping down ramin trees is illegal under Indonesian law dating back to 2001, because of their status as an endangered plant species. But Greenpeace alleges that its researchers found ramin logs being prepared to be transported for pulping when it tested logs in lumber yards belonging to the paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper, on nine separate occasions over the course of a year, and sent them to an independent lab to be tested. Out of 59 samples, 46 tested positive as ramin logs.
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