Greenpeace is calling out of North America’s largest pulp-and-paper companies and wants Canada’s largest paper mill to lose its FSC certification.
Paper Excellence has more than 40 mills in Canada and the US producing pulp, paper or lumber is certified by FSC.
Losing it would be a blow to a giant that manages 22 million hectares of Canadian forest — four times the size of Nova Scotia.
As reported by the Canadian-based CBC, it has questioned Paper Excellence and raised questions about its link to Indonesian pulp and paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper.
On Tuesday, Greenpeace said it has a “preponderance of evidence” that shows Paper Excellence is part of the same business structure as Asia Pulp & Paper, claiming “they’re both controlled by the same corporate parent, Jakarta-based Sinar Mas.”
It is pushing for Paper Excellence “to lose its association with FSC” because “the council rules against being indirectly involved with destructive forestry practices.”
However, Canadia’s FSC branch has rubbished these suggestions, claiming that it has reviewed the matter “multiple times — and has concluded each time that there is no majority ownership relationship between APP and Paper Excellence.”
And even if it did find a relationship, FSC said this would not lead to immediate suspension because companies that commit to “immediately work with the FSC” to correct any wrongs can hold on to their status.
Asia Pulp & Paper has been a long-term target for Greenpeace – as one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies, it operates in 150 countries and has a combined production capacity of 19 million tons of tissue, packaging and paper.
In October 2007, it was disassociated by FSC due to “substantial, publicly available information that APP was involved in destructive forestry practices and was thus in violation of the Policy for Association.”
However, in the years since disassociation, APP and FSC have been engaged in a dialogue leading to an FSC Remedy Framework, which could see APP reassociated with FSC after both signed an MOU in March of 2023.
According to Shane Moffatt, Head of Greenpeace Canada’s Nature and Good campaign, the crux of the complaint centres around Paper Excellence’s corporate structure.
He believes “there is very, very strong evidence” to support the assertion that Sinar Mas owns both companies and that the same ruling applies to APP should also apply to Paper Excellence.
“Therefore, to be consistent with the policy … and transparent with the Canadian public, we believe that that policy should equally apply to Paper Excellence,” he told the CBC.
Shane Moffatt said one of the main goals of the complaint is to get the company more transparent about its ownership and funding.
The parties will now convene in an attempt to mediate an informal resolution.
“If that doesn’t work,” he said, “a more formal investigative process kicks in.”
The complaint centres around a leaked report
The Greenpeace complaint cites recent reporting by CBC and its media partners in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as evidence of ties between the two companies.
The CBC’s investigation gathered evidence from leaked internal company records and former employees showing that, until at least a few years ago, Paper Excellence had closely — and secretly — been coordinating business and strategy decisions with APP. This included collaborating on activities such as hiring, regulatory submissions, and even supply and pricing.
The company has long acknowledged that its owner, Indonesian businessman Jackson Wijaya, is the son of the head of APP and received help from his wealthy family when launching his Canadian venture.
Mr Wijaya held executive positions in the large China wing of his family’s business empire until at least 2017. Nonetheless, Paper Excellence has repeatedly denied that APP or Sinar Mas have any control over it.
“Paper Excellence is owned solely by Jackson Wijaya and is completely independent of Asia Pulp & Paper,” the company said Tuesday.
“Paper Excellence is fully compliant with FSC standards and policies and recently completed an annual independent, third-party audit of its certification.”
The company said that under the FSC’s current and previous framework, Paper Excellence would not be “characterised as being part of the APP/Sinar Mas group or any other group of companies.”
The previous complaint was dismissed.
This isn’t the first time environmental NGOs have filed complaints seeking to strip Paper Excellence of its certification on allegations of links to APP.
In 2019, an Indonesian ENGO wrote to the FSC with evidence purporting to show that Mr Wijaya was still involved at a high level in running a parent company of APP’s Chinese pulp and paper mills.
FSC responded that whilst Mr Wijaya was “one degree removed,” it wasn’t close enough to violate its policy and require it to decertify Paper Excellence.
Canadian MPs have also delved into Paper Excellence’s past financing from the China Development Bank, an agency of the Chinese government.
The committee has heard from some top Paper Excellence officials but has not yet heard from two witnesses on its list: Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Paper Excellence owner Mr Wijaya.
Last month, a committee clerk told MPs the company had declined their invitation for Mr Wijaya to appear.
New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus said it’s essential for Mr Wijaya to show up and answer MPs’ questions.
“We don’t know how this company is structured,” Angus told the committee.
“We don’t know the relationship with Asia Pulp & Paper. We don’t know whether the Sinar Mas group is a family business, but it currently holds massive holdings of Canadian equity.”