Global paper and packaging giant Asia Pulp + Paper (APP) has said it's stopping clearing natural forest across its entire supply chain (for now...), after worldwide accusations of deforestation.
APP is the Indonesian owner of Cottonsoft, which makes CottonSoft and KiwiSoft toilet tissue, Tuffy hand towels and Paseo toilet tissue in NZ.
You may recall I blogged back in 2011 that forensic tests on CottonSoft showed some APP products contained rainforest fibre. Soon after, NZ supermarket chain Countdown stopped using Cottonsoft to make its own-brand loo paper, and The Warehouse suspended all new orders of Cottonsoft toilet rolls. Cottonsoft has not been profitable of late, with a NZ$2m loss in 2010 and a NZ$2.3m loss in 2011.
In March 2012, Greenpeace tests of logs at APP's Indonesian factories found the mill that made raw materials for Cottonsoft regularly processed ramin, an internationally protected species growing in peat swamps where highly endangered sumatran tigers struggle to survive.
Now APP has announced all its suppliers have suspended natural-forest clearance, pending independent assessments to identify high-value conservation areas that would be protected through a long-term management programme (note the word "suspended", not "ceased").
Cottonsoft CEO Steve Nicholson says it's already made significant progress in NZ: "Our products are made from plantation sources and are certified by PEFC, the world's largest forest-certification scheme." [NB: the PEFC Scheme was formed by the very milling groups that forest certification schemes are meant to be watching. Its impartiality has been questioned by various global environmental watchdogs.]
NZ GP chief policy adviser Nathan Argent says the APP announcement is a very public acknowledgement of its devastating role in deforestation. He calls it's Forest Conservation Policy a significant milestone in trying to protect what's left of Indonesia's rainforest, home to the highly endangered sumatran tiger and orangutans.
However, until such times as APP shows a total committment to backing it's position reversal with sincere environmental concern, and makes concerted efforts to assist in saving those same species it's pushed to the brink of extinction, I'll be very very sceptical...