A new study from the Anti-Forest Mafia Coalition and Forest Trends analysed Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and timber industry data to assess the sustainability of the country’s booming pulp and paper industry. It revealed that more than 30% of wood used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector stems from the unreported clear-cutting of natural forests and other illegal sources, instead of legal tree plantations and well-managed logging concessions.

The report singles out the zero-deforestation pledge made by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), claiming “such a commitment would be impossible for all of Indonesia’s pulp mills to meet”. The pulp sector does not have sufficient supply from plantations to meet current industrial capacity, it says.

“The timber industry’s own numbers show that Indonesia’s wood supply is unsustainable,” said Forest Trends chief executive Michael Jenkins. “If all companies implemented environmental commitments, such as ‘zero deforestation’ pledges, it would be impossible to meet current demand for timber. Instead of allowing for new mills to be built, it would be advisable for Indonesia to hold future expansion of the pulp and paper industry until they successfully increase the number of tree plantations.”


The study compared the supply of wood, as reported by the Ministry of Forestry, with the volume of production reported by the industrial forestry sector. It found that the raw material used by these mills exceeded the legal supply by the equivalent of 20 million cubic meters – enough wood to fill more than 1.5 million logging trucks, all from illegal sources.

The source of this illegal wood is unclear, the report suggests it is “unlikely to be from licensed plantations or from the harvesting of wood from forest concessions”. Instead, the demand for illegal wood is “likely fed by trees harvested during the clear-cutting of natural forests for new oil palm and pulp plantations”.

It comes as industry leaders push ahead with plans to build new pulp mills – APP, for example, plans to build a $2.6bn pulp mill in South Sumatra by 2016. The new mill is expected to produce two million tonnes of pulp and 500,000 tonnes of tissue annually. But before any new mills are built, the report says the sector must provide timely, independent, public reporting to confirm that sufficient legal supply from plantations exist.

Industry response

Responding to the report, APP’s managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury insisted the company is “on the right track” and needs better support from all stakeholders in the landscape.

“Legality of fibre supply is a serious problem for wood-based industries globally, which is why APP has gone to great lengths to tackle it,” said Greenbury. “Our aim is to act as a working example of how a company can grow its capacity while simultaneously protecting forests. 

“An assessment carried out by TFT and Ata Marie confirms we are on the right track as, providing we make some yield improvements before 2020, we have sufficient plantation resource to meet our current needs and that of our planned mill in OKI South Sumatra.

“As this report itself points out, APP is committed to zero deforestation through its Forest Conservation Policy and is 100% plantation reliant for virgin fibre. In addition, all of our mills have Indonesia’s requisite SVLK legality certification and all wood coming into the mills is independently monitored and verified.

“APP is working hard to ensure that zero deforestation becomes the norm in Indonesia, but we cannot do this alone. The support of all stakeholders in the landscape is needed for lasting success.”

Earlier this month, APP was said to have made ‘moderate progress’ on its forest conservation efforts, according to an independent investigation by the Rainforest Alliance. The Alliance was tasked with evaluating APP’s Forest Conservation Program (FCP) – created two years ago after the paper company was targeted by Greenpeace for its destructive impact on the forests of Southeast Asia.

Luke Nicholls

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