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Asian Pulp & Paper still trashing the planet

30 May, 2022 - 08:13 -- tbrunner

It’s been some time since we took a look at Asian Pulp & Paper (APP) and its progress towards improving its enviromental impact. This company is a division of Sina Mas, one of China’s massive conglomerates, and it has been destroying Indonesian ecosystems for many years. In 2020 APP produced 17 million tonnes of paper 53% of which came from plantations, 40% from recyclates and 7% from imported fibre. It’s sustainability report presents an apparently sincere and progressive picture. And yet APP continues to come under fire.

The company’s latest sustainability report and the targets outlined in its Vision 2030 declaration suggest that it is either changing its ways or it is really very devious indeed. Making claims in publicly shared documents is always easier than making good on those claims. The assumption is that no one will go back and check or that they won’t question the claims. For instance APP wants to “increase recycled fibre composition” and “product biodegradability”. Goals such as improving water usage and moving to more sustainable energy sources are just part of good business practise, as is cutting the business’s overall environmental impact.

APP also claims to have conserved “over half a million hectares of natural forest and protected the peatlands and biodiversity that sustain our business”. This claim is not verified and does not mention planned expansion of the Ogan Komering Ilir mill in South Sumatra. First opened in 2017 APP is tripling the mill’s capacity which will require over 30 million tonnes of wood per year. Various NGOs warn of terrible consequences with negative environmental impacts for peatlands and forests, as well as people. Banks are being discouraged from investing in the project on the basis that it is not clear that APP has the permission of impacted communities to proceed. Nor is it clear how APP can feed its machines with sufficient wood fibre.

APP has for years responded to calls for it to improve its environmental profile with seriously impressive public relations exercises. Key editors in the pulp and paper trade press have been lavishly wined, dined and helicoptered over lush forests. Impressive Vision statements have been published. But such activities merely put shiney veneers on an ugly reality that persists, despite outcries from the WWF and Greenpeace. APP’s many claims over the years are not fully and independently audited. And APP is considered a high risk investment due to unresolved social conflicts and its fibre supply risk: APP has only shared source information for around 15 million cubic metres of wood and has not explained how it will find more to feed its newly expanded OKI site. APP surely has a plan, and just as surely it will be to the environment’s cost.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, RicohSplash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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