Asian Pulp & Paper versus the World Wildlife Fund

medium_Laurel.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

There is an terrible war or words going on between APP and the WWF. The fight is about APP’s destruction of Indonesian rain forests to feed their new paper mills in China. The group is a division of Sina Mas a large conglomerate based in Shanghai and which is also one of the world’s big palm oil producers. Several major brands, including Burger King, Carrefour and Nestlé have boycotted the company because of its environmental abuses. Ricoh is one of several graphic arts industry players that does not do business with APP.

There aren’t enough trees for APP in China, so Indonesia is apparently the company’s source of raw materials for the new mills. The destruction of the Indonesian forests has been going on for years according to the WWF. The bits of Indonesia they have more recently chosen in Sumatra are home to several endangered species, precious habitats and irrecoverable ways of life. The evidence gathered by Eyes on the Forest (EoF), a coalition of environmental organisations in Sumatra, is brutal and harrowing to read, to say the least. And in Indonesia itself there is an awareness of what APP is doing to the forests. A member of Indonesia’s government representing the Ministry for Tourism and Creative Economy told a recent standards development gathering that “we shall commit ourselves to manage our resources”. This could of course be interpreted in more than one way.

There is a danger that this problem is turning a war between APP and the WWF which is unfortunate. It distracts attention from the very real and far more difficult problem of balancing the desire to protect a world resouce from destruction, with that of a country’s moral entitlement to improve the lot of its people. APP has been on a mission to justify its actions for several years and the WWF has been on a similar mission to expose APP’s misleading information. The massive PR campaign underway to prove superiority, if not of arguments then of authority, is unhelpful. Engagement and constructive efforts to somehow find alternatives for the SM/AAP business model might seen hopeless, but they have to be better than antagonism and provocation. Read EoF’s report “The Truth Behind APP’s Greenwash” and see what you think.

– Laurel Brunner

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