APRIL Group Response to NBC Story
A story ran on the US news channel NBC on 11 December 2021 (Singapore time) alleging a link between production of sustainable viscose and deforestation in Indonesia. The story included reference to RGE as a leading global producer of viscose and APRIL as a supplier of fiber. APRIL has provided clear, compelling evidence to NBC that in fact no deforestation by APRIL or its suppliers has occurred.
We had been engaged with NBC for several weeks prior to their story airing, as they investigated claims that seven of APRIL’s open market suppliers had supposedly been responsible for hundreds of thousands of hectares of deforestation in Kalimantan since 2015. Following scrutiny of NBC’s data and APRIL’s internal fact checking and ground truthing, NBC revised its claims to estimate the affected area in question to be ‘30 square miles’ (7,770 hectares) over a six-year period across a total concession area of 1.1 million hectares (0.7% of total area).
We further disputed this claim with the facts, supported by third party assurance and our own internal land cover change monitoring data, which was transparently provided to NBC. The story that aired subsequently included APRIL’s explanation and assurances that no deforestation has occurred, as well as noting RGE’s ‘significant progress’ since 2015 in ensuring no deforestation.
For transparency, our investigation of NBC’s claims showed that the 10,526 hectares of land NBC originally claimed had been deforested was in fact normal plantation cycle operations within existing plantation footprints where trees have been harvested and replanted with seedlings or areas that have been allocated for legitimate community agriculture within the concession areas. These are clearly not activities involving the deforestation of intact forests and this was included in the NBC story.
We found that a further 1,414 hectares that was claimed to have been deforested is not contiguous and consists of small areas spread across APRIL supplier’s concession footprints that have been encroached or damaged by third parties, or in some cases a result of errors in the remote sensing algorithm due to local conditions such as cloud, haze and time of day. This finding was also included in the story.
Regarding concerns expressed in NBC’s story that increased global demand for pulp, paper and viscose will lead to greater deforestation, that is simply not the case with APRIL or its suppliers. APRIL has clearly stated that it has no intention of expanding its forest concessions and that future demand for fiber supply will be met from its existing supply chain, including from intensification and productivity gains from existing plantations.
The NBC story also references claims that an APRIL supplier, PT Adindo, has deforested land within its concession areas. When those claims were originally made in 2020, APRIL investigated and with its supplier responded comprehensively and publicly with data and mapping evidence that those claims were baseless. That remains the case.
With regards to the claim that clearing of land and establishment of plantations leads to an increased risk of fires in Indonesia, APRIL has for decades had a strict no-burn policy which applies to its suppliers as well. We have also made significant progress in curbing the incidence of fires in the wider community through our Fire Free Village Programme (FFVP) where we engage with and incentivise local communities to quickly respond to fires when they occur and to adopt farming practices which do not involve the burning of land.
Upholding SFMP and Advancing APRIL2030
APRIL and its suppliers adhere strictly to the company’s Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP) 2.0 which includes a strict no deforestation commitment and the use of only renewable plantation fiber in its mill. Independent audits since the policy was introduced in 2015 show that APRIL and its suppliers have complied with this policy and there has been no deforestation.
Further, in November 2020, APRIL adopted its APRIL2030 commitments on climate, nature and people. This decade long vision for a more sustainable future includes targets to drastically reduce carbon emissions and achieve net zero emissions from land use, no net loss of conservation and restoration areas, the championing of conservation in thriving landscapes where APRIL’s production from renewable plantations helps protect natural forest and biodiversity, inclusive progress for our communities and sustainable growth for our business. We also remain committed to achieving our 1:1 pledge where we achieve a hectare of conservation forest for every hectare of plantation. We are currently 81% of the way towards that goal.
The engagement with NBC further assured that APRIL’s SFMP 2.0 policy compliance, assurance process, supplier due diligence and land cover change monitoring is robust and accurate. We will continue to take any allegations of deforestation seriously and work with all suppliers to ensure compliance with our policies and practices.