A field-based survey by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) investigating Asia Pulp and Paper’s (APP) performance, providing input into an evaluation of APP’s progress on fulfilling its social responsibility commitments, and making recommendations to the company finds little on-the-ground evidence to date that APP is taking sufficient action to resolve land conflict issues.
With the exception of progress in two communities where it is piloting conflict-resolution approaches, the report finds there has been little change for communities embroiled in land disputes with the company. Hundreds of land conflicts remain and APP has failed to involve affected communities and other key stakeholders in the identification, analysis and resolution of these conflicts.
The study, initiated by a coalition of Indonesian and International NGOs and community-based organizations, conducted interviews with village leaders and community members from 17 communities impacted by APP and its affiliates. Communities were visited in the Indonesian provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan between May and September 2014, including visits to three APP concessions where the company has initiated conflict-resolution pilot projects.
Environmental groups have long cited APP for adverse social and environmental impacts from its widespread deforestation and pulp plantation expansion across Indonesia. Following decades of public criticism, community opposition and pressure from its customers and investors, in February 2013 APP announced a much-welcomed new Forest Conservation Policy, in which the company committed to reform its forestry practices and address its legacy of land grabs and human rights violations, climate pollution, deforestation, and wildlife habitat destruction across its 2.6 million hectares of concessions.
The study, part of ongoing independent monitoring of the company’s performance, was submitted to an evaluation of APP’s progress against its Forest Conservation Policy Commitments being conducted by the Rainforest Alliance.
Patrick Anderson from Forest Peoples Programme said: “APP still has a tremendous amount of work to do before we can say that their commitments are yielding satisfactory remedies to conflicts on the ground. We’re very concerned that at least one of the two land conflict agreements that have been reached did not follow all the requirements in APP's policy on respecting community rights and that there are many hundreds of conflicts with communities remaining to be resolved. APP is still failing to effectively involve communities and other key stakeholders in developing action plans and efforts to scale up its conflict resolution. If the situation doesn't change, we’re concerned that the company’s efforts will not secure durable and equitable agreements at scale.”
Aidil Fitri, campaign director at Wahana Bumi Hijau, stated that “our research on APP’s implementation of its Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) commitment relating to the new Oki Pulp Mill, one of the world’s largest, finds that the company has not gotten FPIC from at least one rights-holding community and that the company has started construction of Oki Pulp Mill before the FPIC process was completed. We see this as a clear violation of FPIC and the company’s own policy.”
“If APP wants to regain the trust and business of customers and investors, it must improve transparency, work more effectively with stakeholders and prove that it has sufficiently implemented its commitments to a point where it can demonstrate widespread and positive impacts on the ground,” said RAN’s Lafcadio Cortesi. “Because the company’s implementation is still at an early stage, there is a clear need for continued independent monitoring and verification of the company’s performance. In order for APP to scale up conflict resolution and prevent further deforestation in the remaining natural forests in their concessions, the company will need to give back more of the land it is currently using for pulp wood plantations to meet community livelihood needs and land claims.”
In a statement to Sustainable Brands, APP responded: “APP has long been committed to supporting the rights of communities in and around our operations and those of our suppliers. Although there is much more to be done, we have had some early successes, such as our work with the community in Senyerang, which was recognized as a land conflict success story by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta. We have also made agreements with all communities with tenure rights as part of the implementation of FPIC at the site of our new mill in OKI South Sumatra.
"Social issues have been incorporated into a specialist committee (the Social Issues Working Group) of APP's NGO stakeholder forum, the Solutions Working Group, of which RAN is a founder member.
“We welcome all feedback on the work we are doing with communities as well as the wider FCP. This report will be entered into our grievance procedure and fully investigated. In addition, the issues raised will be covered by the Rainforest Alliance in its upcoming evaluation report.”
The RAN study provides detailed recommendations for how APP can address problems and how it can ensure that the foundation that it has established leads to positive outcomes for communities and forests and delivers the results it has promised. Cortesi said the study suggests to buyers and others that it’s still too soon to tell whether APP’s promises will become a reality.