Conservationists press Jakarta to follow industry lead on forests

June 7, 2015 by Nicholas Perry
Trees are cleared in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo Island, in this photo by Greenpeace in 2014
Trees are cleared in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo Island, in this photo by Greenpeace in 2014

Conservationists are urging the Indonesian government to listen to business and start taking deforestation seriously after a major paper giant joined the growing ranks of companies pledging to stop clearing forests.

Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL), the second largest pulp and paper company in Indonesia, announced this week it had stopped harvesting natural forest in a move hailed by its former critic Greenpeace as a "major breakthrough".

Indonesia has some of the world's most extensive and biodiverse rainforests, but huge swathes have been chopped down by , mining and timber companies.

As a result, Southeast Asia's top economy has become the world's third-biggest carbon emitter.

APRIL and its major rival Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which together produce 80 percent of Indonesia's pulp products, have been accused of destroying vast tranches of the forests that are home to endangered species such as Sumatran orangutans and tigers.

APRIL had only last year committed to phasing out in its supply chain by 2020, following APP's promise in 2013 to stop using any logs from Indonesia's natural forests in its mills.

But in what APRIL's group president Praveen Singhavi called a major step in their "sustainability journey", the company ceased forest clearing in May and promised no new developments on Indonesian forest or peat land.

Conservation groups, which stood side by side with APRIL executives in Jakarta as they made the announcement this week, said they would be keeping a close eye on the company's operations to ensure their promises were kept.

"I think that's where the challenge is," WWF's Aditya Bayunanda told AFP on Friday.

"I wouldn't say I am completely pessimistic, because I think APRIL has taken some serious steps that were not done before."

Conservationists are urging the Indonesian government to listen to business and start taking deforestation seriously after a maj
Conservationists are urging the Indonesian government to listen to business and start taking deforestation seriously after a major paper giant joined the growing ranks of companies pledging to stop clearing forests
Turning tide

But far from going it alone, APRIL and APP are part of a growing trend of companies distancing themselves from deforestation.

Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil company, announced in December it would adopt a "zero deforestation" policy, with rival Golden Agri Resources following a few months later.

Resources firm Barito Pacific committed to no deforestation and no development on peat land in March.

"I think that there is this positive trend," Bayunanda said.

"These companies, in the end, they do listen to what their buyers are asking for, what the markets are asking for."

Intense pressure from consumers and green groups has forced some to change their business models.

APP's pledge to stop using logs from Indonesia's natural forests followed years of campaigning by green groups, which had led to the company losing packaging contracts with big brands such as food conglomerate Kraft and Barbie's Mattel.

Indonesia has some of the world's most extensive and biodiverse rainforests, but huge swathes have been chopped down by palm oil
Indonesia has some of the world's most extensive and biodiverse rainforests, but huge swathes have been chopped down by palm oil, mining and timber companies

With industry undertaking its own reforms, conservation groups are now ramping up pressure on the government to do more to protect the rainforest and vital peat lands.

There have been mixed signals so far from President Joko Widodo, who was elected in October.

Last month he extended a landmark moratorium banning new logging permits for primary or virgin forest but did not expand its coverage, leaving tens of millions of hectares (acres) still unprotected.

He also allowed deforestation for projects deemed in the national interest, crucially excluding infrastructure projects and crop plantations from the ban.

Forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar described the APRIL announcement as "significant progress in ", but Greenpeace is calling for more concrete steps from the government as companies make the shift.

"There is no reason for the government to keep continuing business as usual," Bustar Maitar, the head of Greenpeace's Indonesia forest campaign, told AFP.

"The government of Indonesia should support this and should accommodate the effort from industry."

Explore further: Indonesia extends landmark logging moratorium

Related Stories

Indonesia extends landmark logging moratorium

May 14, 2015

Indonesia has extended a landmark moratorium aimed at preserving the archipelago's vast swathes of tropical rainforest, but environmentalists said on Thursday the logging ban did not go far enough.

Paper giant APP promises no Indonesia deforestation

February 5, 2013

The world's third-largest paper producer Asia Pulp and Paper said Tuesday it had stopped using logs from Indonesia's natural forests, after fierce campaigning by green groups against the company.

Greenpeace accuses P&G over Indonesian forest destruction

February 26, 2014

Environmental group Greenpeace on Wednesday accused US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble of being responsible for the destruction of Indonesian rainforests and the habitat of endangered orangutans and tigers.

Recommended for you

Can China keep it's climate promises?

March 26, 2019

China can easily meet its Paris climate pledge to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but sourcing 20 percent of its energy needs from renewables and nuclear power by that date may be considerably harder, researchers ...

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

In the Tree of Life, youth has its advantages

March 26, 2019

It's a question that has captivated naturalists for centuries: Why have some groups of organisms enjoyed incredibly diversity—like fish, birds, insects—while others have contained only a few species—like humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.