Sat, 21 Feb 2004

WWF rejects action plan set out by pulp and paper maker

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) refused to endorse Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)'s action plan to ensure a sustainable wood supply for the world's 10th largest pulp and paper mill.

WWF also called on APP customers and creditors to put pressure on the company to immediately improve its action plan to help protect the forest, and to review their business relations with the company if APP fails to do so.

"WWF firmly believes that APP and SMG are in a position to deliver a credible action plan that could help save Sumatra's remaining forests while maintaining a sustainable wood supply. Unfortunately they have failed to do so," WWF Indonesia executive director Mubariq Ahmad said on Friday.

The Sinar Mas Group (SMG) is the controlling shareholder of APP. Non-governmental organizations have long accused APP of destroying natural forests.

APP signed a letter of intent (LoI) with the WWF on Aug. 19, 2003, in which APP said it would deliver a sustainability action plan for its wood supply.

In the LoI, APP also promised to set aside 58,500 hectares of its forest concessions in Riau province as conservation areas, which according to WWF is actually obligatory based on the Forestry Law. APP was also to conduct a conservation value assessment in those areas.

The LoI expired on Thursday when APP released its sustainability action plan to the public. The plan includes ensuring the legality of all wood entering APP's mills, proving the company's capability to be 100 percent sustainable in 2007, and assessing forests for conservation value.

Some points in the plan that bother WWF are the methodology for the assessment conducted by APP and the company's refusal to stop cutting logs before another assessment could be completed.

"They used a methodology that benefited themselves without taking into account the real conservation value of the forest," said WWF Indonesia director for the species conservation program, Nazir Foead.

Nazir said that APP had indeed agreed to conduct another value assessment using the Forest Stewardship Council recommended by WWF, but the company refused to stop felling trees before the assessment was completed.

APP's director for sustainability and stakeholder engagement, Arian Ardie, told The Jakarta Post that the company would not fulfill WWF's demand to halt production.

"The methodology WWF offers, which we'll also conduct, is used only by 5 percent of the whole wood industry worldwide. APP's also certain that the results will be similar to our previous assessment," he said over the telephone.

He added that halting production had strong economic and social consequences.

WWF urged consumers and creditors of APP to engage in individual discussions with the company, saying that "responsible customers and creditors can ensure that APP improves its environmental and social responsibility".

"Come out from behind of the curtain and show to the public that you are responsible and environmentally friendly companies. Show the public that you're not pushing APP on its debts. Don't let APP use you and the reason of paying debts as justification for them to continue felling trees," said Nazir.

APP has debts totaling US$13.9 billion. It owes $7.2 billion in China and $6.7 billion in Indonesia.

Asked about the possibility that APP consumers may stop buying its products, Arian said that "none of our consumers nor creditors had responded yet to the results of the sustainability plan and the decision by WWF not to endorse the plan".

APP's consumers are largely from Japan, the European Union, and the United States.