It is a sad thing to read Greenomics’ report titled “Zero to Zero,” which harshly criticized the Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). In a 28-page report published in early November 2013, Greenomics judged APP’s FCP forest rescue efforts as futile. APP’s deforestation policy was released in early February 2013, right after the company completed 20 years of clear-cutting forests in most of the Sumatra area. APP and its supplier companies have destroyed about 550,000 hectares of Sumatran tiger habitat, 240,000 acres of habitat for elephants, and 1,500 hectares of orangutan habitat. “Zero to Zero” is the second Greenomics criticism of APP; the first,titled “APP’s Artful Deception,” was published in March 2013.
Apparently, Greenomics is not a fan of the adage “better late than never.” As noted in two Greenomics reports, before announcing FCP APP had already been accelerating the process of deforestation in the period December 2012 – January 2013. By doing so, APP only secured small amounts of forest area, mostly because the area is difficult to access, it is exposed to land conflict with local communities, and the area should not be exploited.
Elfian Effendi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, considered that the FCP (which comprises APP, its environmental consultant The Forest Trust (TFT), and Greenpeace) was nothing more than a cunning trick to restore the company’s reputation. The whole world knew APP was infamous for being a giant forest destroyer and that APP never really intended to save the forests that shelter endangered animals. Later on Effendi even suggested that other companies that manage the forest not follow in APP’s footsteps. He said, “If it was done then it is tantamount to accelerating deforestation of natural forests in this country.”
But the most surprising of all the assessment claims is Effendi’s comment that he deplores the involvement of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support APP’s FPC campaigns. Effendi assumed the NGOs do not have enough data about APP’s destructive activity. Furthermore, Effendi hopes the organizations cease their cooperation with APP and do a thorough audit of APP’s deforestation areas. “If not, I suspect there is something behind this cooperation,” he said.
Similar skepticism was also expressed by the Volunteer Monitoring Kalimantan Forests (Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan/RPHK) and other NGOs that are members of Eyes on the Forest (EoF). These NGOs demanded transparency from APP and TFT (as an environmental consultant for APP) by opening the lines of communication for independent observers to monitor the implementation of the FPC. That demand came as APP was apparently still in violation of two deforestation commitments since it formed the FPC. This is not something new. Actually, looking back we can now see that APP violated its Zero Deforestation commitments three times: in 2004, 2007, and 2009.
APP’s violations after the FPC then become a big question mark because APP has worked with TFT since February 2012. Yet, according to Tony Juniper’s article in theguardian.com, the actual forest destroyers are the farmers who intend to open palm oil plantations. Juniper, who represents the Robertsbridge Group as one of the consultants who assists APP in implementing the FCP, also wrote that APP is already working on its commitment to the FPC by managing the biosphere reserve in Giak Siam Kecil, an area of 178,000 hectares in Riau.
The situation above illustrates that APP is now in a difficult position. Amidst pressure from NGOs, skepticism, and unfavorable news in the media, it looks like only transparency will save APP. Unfortunately, TFT as APP’s auditor doesn’t realize this. The RPHK admitted that TFT and Greenpeace had contacted them by phone to verify the data on the FPC progress report, which RPHK judged as a unilateral report. But neither TFT nor APP respond well to RPHK terms and conditions to involve other parties such as local government and independent third parties. This fact then makes us think about Effendi’s suspicion and ask: Is there something behind APP’s FPC and the foreign NGOs?