Auditor Suspends Green Certification For Indonesian Paper Firm
Author: Sunanda Creagh
Partial green certification for one of Asia's biggest paper producers has been suspended over concerns for high conservation value forests in Indonesia, the company and an independent auditor said on Thursday.
Full certification -- proof that companies have not used wood sourced illegally or from high value forests -- gives firms access to lucrative public procurement markets in Europe, where many governments have sworn off non-certified products.
Until a recent audit, privately owned Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), which operates one of the world's largest pulp mills, had Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Controlled Wood certification for its operations in Indonesia.
However Rainforest Alliance, the independent auditor charged with making sure APRIL met FSC standards, found "environmental and social issues that APRIL must resolve," both parties said in a joint statement.
"APRIL and Rainforest Alliance senior management are discussing actions that APRIL can take to re-acquire FSC Controlled Wood certification and eventually... attain full FSC Forest Management certification," the statement said.
A spokeswoman for APRIL, Ee Poh Luan, told Reuters on Thursday that the problem was a technical one.
"The suspension is due to a difference in how high conservation value forest is defined rather than how is managing the forest," she said. "We are managing it responsibly."
The FSC website says the certification in question is granted only to firms which avoid five types of wood: illegally harvested; harvested in violation of tradition and civil rights; from forests in which high conservation values are threatened; from natural forests; and from areas where genetically modified trees are planted.
Forest preservation is seen as a key to slowing down global warming because trees soak up enormous amounts of climate-warming greenhouse gases.
Losing one type of certification could affect APRIL's access to some markets in Europe where governments have promised not to buy non-certified products, said Robert Nasi, a specialist in the issue at the Center for International Forestry Research in West Java, Indonesia.
Without certification, "they will not be able to sell to any ministry or any public procurement in Germany and in Netherlands," Nasi said.
"For example, if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Germany is wanting to buy a few tonnes of paper, they cannot buy it from APRIL," he said.
However, APRIL's spokeswoman said FSC Controlled Wood certification was only one of many certifications that the firm holds.
"As a further assurance, we seek independent certification across our supply chain with other certification bodies such as LEI, Green Proper and OHSAS," she said.
"No government procurement standards rely exclusively on any one particular certification standard, recognizing the diversity of geographical and political contexts in which wood products are manufactured."
(Editing by David Fox)