Rhett Butler, the one-man rainforest crusader behind the site mongabay.com has written an essay that takes to task the idea that forest-depleting paper companies in Indonesia—specifically Asia Pulp & Paper—are “carbon neutral” and help to alleviate poverty. The truth, writes Butler, is that APP has “cleared more than one million hectares of natural forests in Riau and Jambi provinces alone, making it responsible for more forest loss than any other company operating in Sumatra.” Both APP and the company Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings engage in widespread deforestation, but rather than move to more sustainable practices, they’ve tried to use marketing to save their public image.
APP, the third largest pulp and paper producer in the world, once named the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Rainforest Alliance as partners, environmental groups that hoped to gain access to APP’s activities, including illegal logging, building roads through the Kampar peninsula (an extremely important peat swamp forest in terms of carbon storage) and threatening the lives and habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger and Sumatran orangutans.
But when APP allowed little access or oversight to these groups, the nonprofits cut ties. The company responded with a PR campaign to identify itself as a “green” company, claiming that “APP is absolutely committed to the sustainable development of Indonesia” in one press release. But research firm BlueMap paints a different picture, writing: “BlueMap found that APP conceals environmentally destructive processes: it grows rapidly renewable trees in relatively small space encased in a much larger forest of non-rapidly renewable trees. In doing so, APP destroys the larger space’s trees while waiting for the rapidly renewable trees to mature, destroying wildlife habitat in the process.”
As a profile of Butler on the site change.org noted, such rampant “greenwashing” needs to be called out, to increase pressure on a company that is single-handedly destroying irreplaceable old-growth forest. Already, retailers such as Staples, Office Depot, FedEx, Kinko’s and others have stopped carrying APP products because of their destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests.
Butler’s online petition to stop the clear-cutting of rainforests in Indonesia can be found here: http://environment.change.org/blog