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Against LEI Certification

Against LEI Certification 150 150 lei

The Japanese NGOs reject APP products. LEI certification is considered unreliable. Vested interest to block Indonesian pulp and paper products?. GATRA, December 9, 2009.

Twelve people bravely climbed a crane operating at a dock in Riau last Thursday. The Greenpeace activists protested illegal logging activities performed in Sumateran forests by PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper, the business unit of a giant company Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).The company is deemed as taking a great part in tropical forests deforestation leading to global warming acceleration process.

The activists spread a banner “Forest destruction: You can stop this”. This action has drawn the international community attention of which are looking forward to welcome the Global Climate Conference planned to be held in early December 2009 in Copenhagen. “Deforestation is the root of climate problems. We are stopping the export of one of the world’s largest pulp mills standing at the frontline of forests destruction,” said a Greenpeace activist, Shailandra Yashwan.

But the action did not run smoothly. According to Greenpeace spokeperson, Martin Baker, at least 18 activists, including 12 foreigners, were arrested by Riau police.

APP Group Director of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, Aida Greenbury, explained that APP Group would not stop their export despite the pressure from the world’s environment activists. APP exports around 1 million metric tons of paper processed from wood extracted from forests in Jambi and Riau annually.

As compensation, APP runs conservation program in other parts of Sumatera. The conservation program is performed also within the framework of carbon offset trade for the future environment sustainability. APP is a member of Sinar Mas Group, a conglomeration owned by the Widjaja family.

The Thursday morning action by Greenpeace was a follow up of a similar action in Tokyo, Japan. The previous action was conducted during APP’s first launching of LEI-certified wood products in October 20. APP chooses Japan as the first market for LEI-certified products due to LEI’s popularity in various sectors in Japan such as in Japanese government, business and communities.

In addition, Japan has a good reputation in nature conservation and sustainable management. “We are in Japan to show that a certification system for natural resources can meet the world market’s increasing demand of environmentally-friendly products generated from sustainable sources,” explained Agung Prasetyo, LEI Executive Director.

Five APP Group pulp and paper mills obtained Chain of Custody certification under LEI’s plantation forest certification program. In addition, one of APP’s wood raw material supplier, PT Wirakarya Sakti, also obtains certification after complying LEI’s plantation forest sustainable management system standard.

Asia Pulp & Paper will market its LEI-certified paper products to the international market by the end of the year. APP’s total paper production will serve 10% of Japanese market niche demand.

According to Aida, Asian market will be their first distribution focus. They will gradually expand the market to other regions, in line with the target of producing paper containing 100% raw materials generated from LEI-certified sources.

The product launching was held in a seminar in Tokyo following the announcement that five of APP’s pulp and paper mills had obtained LEI’s certification.

LEI is a constituent-based organization that promotes sustainable forest management through a certification system to link social and environment interests with the market’s demands. Apart from Japanese and other Asian countries, European Union countries and USA have acknowledged the credibility of both LEI as an institution and LEI-certified products. After launching its products to Asian market, APP plans to market its LEI-certified products to European market.

However, before entering the hustle and bustle of world market churned by consumers’ demand for environmentally-friendly products, APP’s certified products were protested by world environment activists. Several activists led by Greenpeace and WWF demonstrated outside the seminar venue to show rejections towards APP products. They questioned LEI’s certification on APP’s industrial plantation forest products.

According to the activists, LEI standard needs to be strengthened because APP products are not supportive to environment sustainability. The demonstrators would like to warn international buyers to avoid risks caused by the trade of APP/SMG products and LEI-certified products. They also urged LEI to strengthen its plantation forest certification standard and auditor requirements to ensure the certification quality.

Rejection from the world class activists is supported by several NGOs in Riau, including Walhi and WWF. From the perspective of local NGOs, APP has a long history of conducting illegal logging practices in Indonesia, including of forests with high conservation value. APP activities are also linked with local communities’ human rights violation as well as the drying out of carbon-rich peat land forest; thus, causing global glasshouse gases emission.

“The certification is not reliable and transparent because they don’t take the inputs from the prominent NGOs and communities into consideration,” said Dicky Kurniawan of KKI Warsi.

Leaders of local NGOs warned that plantation forest certification standard allow forests destruction and conversion as well as creating social problems related to forest concession. LEI is also considered as not paying attention to the ever increasing large-scale social and environmental problems caused by APP in Indonesia.

Responding to the accusation, Agung Prasetyo revealed that the root of the problems lied in the differences between LEI and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications. According to him, FSC refused to certify industrial plantation forests established after 1994; whereas LEI standard can be applied for the products of plantation forests on critical land, as allocated by the Government of Indonesia.

The problem is, the pulp and paper consumers are worried that they purchase products containing raw materials extracted from conserved natural forests. “Thus, we assure that LEI only processes the certification of products extracted from plantation forests not from natural forest conservation,” said Agung.

LEI certification standard is developed based on constituents agreement, “We have NGOs, business communities, and eminent persons (experts considered as having positive contributions to environment). Therefore, organization-wise, LEI is very credible,” explained Agung.

LEI certification itself is one of the market instruments employed to facilitate environmentally-friendly products in reaching the “green products” consumers of which are increasing in numbers. Agung firmly stated, “Forest certification should not pose as an obstruction to trade.”

Agung needs to make the statement because there seems to be a controversy on LEI certification. LEI certification standard of which is focusing on products of plantation forests – including in APP case – is resulted from the recommendations and agreement of LEI’s constituent, including WWF and other NGOs. Surprisingly, several of those NGOs are now reject LEI certification. “Such rejections should be brought forward through the organization’s internal mechanism,” said Agung.

Aida Greenbury stressed that LEI’s certification can be seen as a commitment of Indonesian pulp and paper industries. “The certification is a good start for APP to introduce the first LEI-certified papers to global market as well as to demonstrate our efforts in promoting Indonesian products certified under a transparent and multi-party engaging scheme,” she stated.