How APP can clear the smoke


Read the full report and supporting information.


Since coming under investigation by the National Environment Agency, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) has been facing a boycott campaign, with major retailers pulling its products from their shelves (“Asia Pulp & Paper hit by another withdrawal”; Oct 20).

This is despite APP’s vigorous response that it has a zero-burning policy. The lesson is clear: It carries little weight when a corporation tries to defend itself against clear, objective evidence.

Data from Global Forest Watch has shown that APP suppliers make up six of the seven pulpwood companies in Indonesia with the most hot spots on their land this year until Oct 27.

The total number of hot spots on APP supplier concessions has been increasing every year since 2013 (Supporting Information 1).

To compare with other pulp and paper companies, in Sumatra, there were 18.2 high-confidence hot spots per 100 square kilometres in APP supplier concessions this year, and only 3.1 high-confidence hot spots per 100 sq km on non-APP pulpwood concessions. (Supporting Information 2)

Hence, even if the fires were caused by other parties, as it claims, the data show its inadequate efforts in fire prevention and suppression.

In terms of managing the fire-prone peatland, APP announced this year its restoration project on 7,000 hectares of its 1.4 million hectares of Sumatra peatland. In comparison, hundreds of thousands of hectares of its suppliers’ lands have been burnt. (Supporting Information 3)

Its competitor, Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings, has worked on a project to protect and restore 70,000 hectares of peatland and degraded forest — 10 times the scale of APP’s restoration project.
Without objective comparison, APP’s advertising of its conservation efforts creates only more smoke during hazy days. To clear it, we would like APP to consider the following requests.

First, it must open itself to a thorough, independent investigation into the reasons for the fire, and post the results and recommendations publicly.

Second, APP must map in detail the burnt areas and restore them to their original conservation or community use. The progress should be audited and published regularly.

Third, there is no point in continuing to build a new mill and develop new plantations until APP proves itself capable of preventing and suppressing fires. If APP is sincere, it should place a moratorium on the development of new mills, plantations and canals until it achieves a low fire outcome, say, fewer than three high-confidence hot spots per 100 sq km per year on its lands. (PM.Haze would like to revise this recommendation to << 1 high-confidence hot spots per 100 sq km per year for non-El Nino years. Please refer to Supporting Information 4 for clarification)

In the long run, obtaining internationally recognised forestry certification, such as the Forest Stewardship Council certification, would provide further evidence that good management practices are being followed.