Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) announced a new set of responsible sourcing and sustainable goals for this coming decade. The announcement surely will attract the interest of companies and environmental organizations. APP’s action, or lack of action, the past few years on a bevy of problems have together made this company the John Edwards or Hosni Mubarak of the multinational world.
To that end, APP has launched an aggressive public relations campaign, engaging firms including Cohn & Wolfe as well as a convoluted group of “non profits” which together defend the company’s business practices. Any news or commentary on APP’s recent activities, which recently has been mostly focused on companies dropping APP faster than the pulp and paper giant can mow down a tiger habitat, comes with a barrage of responses. The company and its PR representatives are relentless, harassing and even bullying towards anyone who speaks out on the company’s activities in Indonesia. Anyone who reports on APP will be gifted with emails demanding a “clarification” or “correction” . . . repeatedly.
So what does APP pledge for the next several years? Considering the resources plunked into its PR offensive, the company curiously scrimped on the actual announcements, using Scribd to announce the following:
- APP will have the capacity to be wholly reliant on raw materials from plantations by 2015.
- All current APP suppliers by 2015 will operate by the the company’s standards of “High Conservation Value Forest” (HCVF), providing the most robust protection for biodiversity, rare ecosystems and local community rights.
- By 2020, current APP suppliers will score “credible certification” for Sustainable Forest Management’s (SFM) system, “matching global best practice in this field.”
- As part of APP’s SFM commitments, the company will also introduce “carbon measurement and evaluation for its plantations – above and below ground.” According to the company, APP will then be at the forefront of the global pulp and paper industry’s contribution to tackling climate change, part of Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s pledge to cut Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2020.
The proof will be in the results later this decade. Most environmental organizations, including APP’s biggest nemesis, Greenpeace, a formidable PR force in its own right, will want to see progress, not spin. What is amazing about APP’s about-face, is that despite all the company’s investment in pushing spin out of New York PR firm offices, APP’s charm offensive comes across as a batch of outdated and empty promises. At a time when such companies as Marks & Spencer, Nike, PUMA, Campbell’s Soup Company and Walmart engage stakeholders with innovative ideas, increased transparency and measured results, APP still just sends out press releases.
The lessons for APP are simple. Show us the work instead of talking about it and shouting down at its critics. And for its PR minions, stop the obnoxious press releases because promoting and talking glowingly about a client that has earned zero trust is not the activist’s, writer’s, journalist’s, or blogger’s job–it’s yours.
Photo of logging road in East Kalimantan courtesy Wikipedia.