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Greenpeace and Asia Pulp & Paper Duke It Out Over Greenpeace Report

This week, Greenpeace released a new report “How Sinar Mas Is Pulping the Planet.” The conclusions were highly critical of Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the largest vertically integrated pulp and paper companies in the world.

According to Greenpeace, APP is gobbling up tropical forest for fiber production, lying about its intentions to scale back production in extremely sensitive areas such as peatlands, and putting endangered species like the Sumatran Tiger at risk.

Pulping the Planet reveals – from analysis of Indonesian government and confidential Sinar Mas maps and data, as well as on-the-ground investigations – that APP continues to acquire and destroy rainforest and peatland to feed its two pulp mills in Sumatra.

Them’s fightin’ words.

APP, normally reticent to respond to critics in public, is fighting back. Today it released a press release calling Greenpeace’s accusations “false,” “misleading,” and “salacious.”

In a statement from its PR firm:

While Greenpeace has not accused APP of doing anything illegal, the organization’s claims in the report are false and misleading, continuing Greenpeace’s tradition of inaccurate and alarmist reporting. By publishing this report, with its salacious claims and deceptive allegations regarding the policies of the Indonesian government and the development of its industries, Greenpeace has undermined efforts toward sustainable development in Indonesia – a vitally important undertaking.

I’ve skimmed the Greenpeace report. I’ve read APP’s response, which includes data that undermines and contradicts some of the Greenpeace report. I must say it’s confusing.

  • Greenpeace claims to have secret documents obtained from Sinar Mas that point to a secret plan by APP to increase its current pulping capacity by up to seven times. APP responds by saying that Indonesia’s regulations require transparency for such expansion plans to be approved and supported by different levels in the provincial and central governments. “Additionally, Greenpeace’s allegation is illogical since roughly 20 million acres of gross pulpwood concession area would be needed to achieve the purported increase in production, yet currently in Indonesia, there is only 14 million acres of land allocated for such plantations.”
  • Greenpeace accuses APP of compromising the habitat of endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger. APP categorically states that this is not the case.  “APP has set aside 261,930 acres of production forest to serve as the core of the Senepis Sumatran Tiger Sanctuary in the Riau province, a pioneering initiative that is a vital contribution to the survival of this species.”

It’s no wonder that APP is responding. Some international companies, such as Staples, Office Depot, and Woolworths (Australia), are reported to have have stopped buying or selling paper products connected to APP. Those are big numbers.

Do I believe that huge global companies walk in a very gray area when it comes to profit and true sustainability? Sure. Everyone wants to be seen as green, but the truth is, on a global scale, it conflicts with profitability. On the other hand, environmental groups tend to walk on the edge, too, amplifying and twisting facts to suit their own agendas. The end justifies the means kind of thing.

What’s the truth in this case? I have no idea. Readers will have to download the report and the press release and try to figure it out. I just wish everyone involved in the world of sustainability would follow the lead of our court system, which asks people to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

It would make things much easier.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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