FSC dumps Asia Pulp and Paper – but who was to blame?

In December 2007, the FSC announced that it was “dissociating” itself from the giant Sinar Mas-owned Indonesian paper company Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) – see statement below. The news was mostly greeted by the environmental movement, though there is some suspicion that the FSC only took this unusual step because the possible certification of APP had been exposed in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. WWF in particular has issued stinging reports of the company’s greewashing of its destruction of forests to feed its pulp mill in Riau province, Sumatra. (For WWF, this was yet another ‘logger love-in’ turned sour, having signed an agreement with APP and its parent company in 2003 to advise on sustainable forest management.)

But there are several curious aspects to this story which have not been explained by the FSC.

APP had not actually been certified by FSC, so strictly speaking there was no formal ‘association’ to break anyway. The company was, however, assessed by SGS Qualifor for ‘legal verification’ of its supplies during 2006. Commenting in the Wall Street Journal in October last year, a spokesman for SGS indicated that they could issue APP with a Chain of Custody certificate for products made of wood from FSC certified plantations elsewhere in the world, under FSC’s ‘mixed sources’ rules.

Another of FSC’s accredited certifiers, Rainforest Alliance SmartWood, has also been associated with APP. In a gushing May 2006 document entitled “A Smarter Way to Make a Difference – Developing Successful Partnerships in the Global Paper & Print Marketplace”, SmartWood’s Jeff Hayward explains how, in 2004, SmartWood had entered into an agreement with APP in order to monitor the company’s treatment of High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF).

In August 2005, announcing what was described as a 5-year ‘landmark agreement’ for SmartWood to monitor and advise the company on its HCVF forests, APP’s CEO said “This is further proof of our commitment to protect and conserve extensive tracts of natural forest habitat”. APP’s press release also stated that “Over 21 million ha (53 million acres) around the world are now managed according to the highest standards through the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program. The Rainforest Alliance has certified over 1,300 companies in this effort and improved the quality of life of some tens of thousands workers and their families.”

But already by mid-2006, WWF Indonesia were growing increasingly alarmed. In October 2006 they accused APP of ‘hiding destruction behind false advertisements’, and reported that, contrary to what the company was claiming in its green advertising, SmartWood’s monitoring reports showed on-going destruction of HCVF. One of the specific issues raised by WWF was that APP claimed that it was helping to protect the highly endangered Sumatran tiger, whereas in fact the only forest area under any form of protection was within the adjacent logging concession of FSC-certified PT Diamomd Raya. (Unfortunately, this company has also been the source of huge controversy, and the subject of an extremely long-running and ultimately unresolved formal complaint to the FSC, not the least because of its failure to protect willife, including tigers.)

A victim of a trap in APP’s area – but is it any better in the adjacent FSC-certified Diamond Raya concession, where loggers conflict with tigers?

The amount paid to SmartWood and SGS by APP for their ‘non-FSC’ services has not been revealed, but it is likely to have been substantial; APP might have thought that they were getting rather more for their money than simply reports as to how much forest they were legally destroying.

But this latest fiasco highlights the dangers in FSC-accredited certifiers ‘moonlighting’ by undertaking non-FSC certification work for companies, including those that might well see themselves as candidates for FSC certification and have a history of greenwashing.

Rainforest Alliance SmartWood has recently announced that it is launching its own non-FSC certifcation scheme, the so-called SmartLogging programme. This is bound to add confusion in the market place, and likely to lead to further unjustified ‘associations’ with the FSC.

The ‘mixed sources’ policy makes it perfectly possible for notorious companies to nevertheless obtain certification for forest products because, as FSC-Watch has consistently pointed out, it provides the opportunity to launder non-certified material by mixing it with small amounts of certified wood from elsewhere.

As well as its welcomed dissociation from APP, the FSC might wonder whether it should be dissociating itself from some of its certifiers and its own policies…

Forest Stewardship Council dissociates with Asia Pulp and Paper December 2007

The Forest Stewardship Council dissociated from working with Indonesian based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in October 2007. The Forest Stewardship Council has a duty to protect the good will and integrity associated with its name and logo for consumers and for our trusted partners and members. The FSC Board of Directors decided that association with APP would threaten the good will and faith invested in the name Forest Stewardship Council and the years of support and participation by companies that are truly committed to the pursuit of responsible forest management globally.

There is substantial publicly available information that suggests that APP, a Sinar Mas subsidiary, is associated with destructive forestry practices. Reports from WWF, Greenpeace, Eyes on the Forest and many other independent sources suggest that APP is actively conducting forestry practices contrary to FSC Principles and Criteria. As a result, the FSC Board of Directors decided to end the use of the FSC name and trademarks by APP and subsidiaries in which APP is the majority shareholder.

The FSC Board of Directors limited the scope of dissociation to only those entities that APP controls by majority. Certificate holders affected by this decision will no longer be able to sub-license and use the FSC trademarks. Where affected entities demonstrate through substantial verifiable evidence that they do not fall within the scope of this decision, the FSC trademark sub-licenses will be promptly reinstated.

As a way to ensure that the FSC continues to develop solutions in a transparent way to the problems facing the world’s forests FSC has determined that it will develop a formal policy that will govern how it handles any future issues similar to this. A draft of a proposed policy has been circulated for public comment and a revised draft is scheduled to be released shortly with more opportunity for public comment to be submitted.

If you have further questions about the dissociation of Forest Stewardship Council from working with Asia Pulp and Paper, please contact Salem ones in the Trademark Department at FSC: s.jones (at) accreditation-services.com.



  1. Is there any progress concerning the reviewing process of the FSC cut off policy?

    There is a letter signed by Board of Directors and Executive Director of FSC. It said:
    “FSC has also been studying the impacts of its November 1994 cut off date for conversion and the desirability of changing this approach. A multi-stakeholder working group analyzed the issue and it will be one of the key topics in the current review of the FSC Principles and Criteria. FSC is aware of how important this discussion is within Indonesia. ..”

  2. Thanks asep for this. I’d suggest you should ask FSC whether there is any progress about reviewing the FSC cut off policy for plantations established on land converted from forests. I haven’t heard anything.

    Could you send a copy of the letter from the FSC Board, please? Our email address is info@fsc-watch.org


  3. Thanks for your respond, Chris.
    I will send the letter asap.

    It would be great if there is any info about this interesting development.

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