As some readers may have gathered, I’m not the biggest fan of Asia Pulp & Paper. Having observed their stumbling steps towards, and then away from, sustainability since about 2002.
In recent years the fight between the company and campaigners such as Greenpeace, WWF and the Rainforest Action Network has become ever more public and corporate focused.
As a result APP has become known as the only company its size that loses corporate customers faster than it can gain them.
As a result of the campaign the company has resorted to old school underhand tactics.
These included hiring consultants to say that Greenpeace could not be trusted, paying lobbyists to clear them of proven deforestation, and getting their PR firm, Cohn & Wolfe, to somehow place Op Ed advertorial articles in publications like the Ecologist. All very predictable, 1990s behaviours.
(Although how and why the Ecologist was persuaded to run the article is unclear. The editor does not respond to questions about their motivation in doing so)
Now though, APP must be coming under serious pressure to do a deal with campaign groups. A sister company, in the palm oil sector, (hardly known for sustainability leadershop) Golden Agri, has finally cut a deal with campaign and conservation groups to help prevent the destruction of the last remaining tropical forests of Indonesia.
Given APP is owned by the same family, the owners of the Sinar Mas group, this new deal may mean that finally Sinar Mas, and eventually its subsidiaries, such as APP, will soon be back to the sustainability table to thrash out a deal with the NGOs.
It’s about time. Of course, we’ve been here before with APP and they have backtracked. But this time the owners may actually be serious and long term. The Indonesian government is finally starting to put pressure on domestic businesses to urgently stop the destruction of the rainforest across the country.
Whatever the reasons, business or political, for the Golden Agri deal, it bodes better for the last remaining Orang-Utans and Sumatran Tigers that APP may soon also start behaving like a more responsible corporate citizen. It’s never too late, even for APP.