Eco-Certified Paper Razing Sumatran Orangutans' Rainforest Homes, Displacing Indigenous Peoples

rainforest logging sumatra indonesia photo

Logging in Indonesia. Photo by David Gilbert/Rainforest Action Network via FERN.

European consumers of Golden Plus and Lucky Boss brand copy paper got an unpleasant surprise this week when a federation of EU environmental groups announced that the products they thought were made from sustainable sources have likely been contributing to "devastating impacts on Sumatran rainforests, causing deforestation, threatening endangered species such as the orangutan, and harming the rights of indigenous peoples."The EU Ecolabel, known as the "EU flower," is a voluntary certification program covering some 3,000 products and services, from tourism accommodations to appliances to cleaning products. Choosing ecolabeled paper products, the certifying body says, "guarantees paper coming from recycled fibers or sustainably managed forests."

Illegally Harvested Wood in Certified Paper
But according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), which officially represents environmental NGOs on the EU Ecolabel Board, two types of paper awarded with the label are likely to contain pulp made from illegally harvested wood.

The forest-focused group FERN looked into the operations of Indonesia-based paper producers Pindo Deli, the makers of Golden Plus and Lucky Boss, and found that the forestry companies its mills contract with for raw materials in Sumatra are pulping both wood grown on plantations and mixed tropical hardwood -- or, as FERN puts it, "wood sourced from forests that have been clearcut and bulldozed to make way for industrial tree plantations."

Sumatran Elephants, Tigers, and Orangutans at Risk
Areas being logged by the companies "contain some of the richest biodiversity anywhere in the world, providing habitats for Sumatran elephants, Sumatran tigers, and Sumatran orangutans, 198 bird species and 59 mammal species," FERN wrote in its recent report on Pindo Deli. Indigenous nomadic people who live in the forest are also "becoming increasingly marginalized as the forests are logged," the group added, to the point where some are "sleeping alongside logging roads in increasingly degraded remnant patches of forest."

Since Pindo Deli was the first and so far only non-European company to be awarded the label for copying and graphic paper products, it's hard not to wonder if the certifying body overreached by trying to monitor activities going on in a distant place far outside the EU legal system. But the EEB says weak requirements for forest products and a lack of transparency are systematic in the ecolabeling system -- points it plans to push when the European Commission, member states, and other stakeholders meet Tuesday to discuss revision of the criteria for forest products.

More about the environmental impact of logging:
Small Victory For the Planet: Court Halts Loggers From Advancing Further Into Alaska's Tongass National Forest
Illegal Logging Makes Indonesia World's Third Largest Emitter of Greenhouse Gases
Obama Reverses Bush's Oregon Logging Rule, Saves Millions of Acres of Forest
Illegal Logging, Looting and Civil Strife Close Madagascar National Park, Rare Lemurs at Risk
60% of Congo Logging Contracts Canceled by Government
60% Worse Than We Thought: IPCC Wrongly Estimates Logging Impact on Climate Change

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