A patch of former forest in the once-lush Riau Indonesian district of Sumatra which has been stripped bare by loggers. Photo: Karen Michelmore
A contract signed in Jakarta on Tuesday by the owners of Asia Pulp and Paper, which is based in Indonesia, has received the qualified endorsement of its tormentor, Greenpeace after it agreed to log solely plantation timber.
The man who brokered the deal, Australian Scott Poynton, from the Forest Trust, said this ‘‘could be a real turning point in the fight against deforestation’’.
‘‘APP has got such a complex political, environmental and economic context, if they can do it, there’s no excuse for any other company to have deforestation in their supply chain,’’ he said.
Environmentalist and forester Scott Poynton. Photo: Supplied
By some estimates, APP has cleared nearly two million hectares of tropical forest in Sumatra since 1994 and about 180,000 hectares of carbon-rich peat swamp between 2003 and 2009, including tiger and orang-utan habitat.
Its suppliers will now be bound to not log timber with high conservation value, or in peat swamps, and the company has agreed to get ‘‘free, prior and informed consent’’ of landholders when it opens a new concession.
The deal encourages green groups and the Forest Trust to scrutinise whether APP’s 38 suppliers and hundreds of contractors are abiding by the commitments and the company has vowed to sack any of its suppliers found in breach.
The deal represents a significant victory for Greenpeace, which had pounded the company with a decade-long public campaign that cost APP more than 130 customers, most recently Disney and the toymakers Mattel and Hasbro.
But it is understood the company’s real fear was that the paper mills in Japan were beginning to ask questions.
The head of Greenpeace’s forest campaign in Indonesia, Bustar Maitar, agreed the green group was ‘‘risking our credibility’’ by endorsing the deal, but would ‘‘watch and monitor closely’’ what happened on the ground.
APP has a trail of broken environmental commitments, including with the wildlife preservation group WWF.
‘‘We welcome this move, but we urge everyone to wait and see, after independent monitoring is done,’’ WWF’s pulp and paper manager, Aditya Bayunanda, said.
APP’s long-time sustainability managing director, Aida Greenbury, declined to speak about the past, saying this pledge was ‘‘about the future’’.
But she said it was the first time the company’s owner and chairman, Teguh Ganda Wijaya, had put his personal seal on such an agreement.
‘‘We now want to be a true global player and true leader,’’ Ms Greenbury said.
Mr Poynton, who negotiated a similar deal last year with APP’s sister company, the palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources, said he did not know if the Wijaya family had ‘‘gone all the way to Damascus’’.
‘‘But they’re not stupid people and they understand the imperative for business,’’ he said.
Ms Greenbury said the pledge would cost APP a significant amount of money.