January 31, 2012 4:51 PM
Gov. Bob McDonnell is warning a major retailer that its decision not to stock products from a Shenandoah County manufacturer could hurt the state’s economy.
Kroger has joined a growing number of national retailers that have decided not to buy products made from raw materials produced by Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).
The environmental group Greenpeace accuses APP, a division of the Chinese conglomerate Sinar Mas, of destroying rainforests in Southeast Asia. Greenpeace began a campaign urging U.S. grocery chains and big-box stores not to carry APP-sourced products until the company changes its practices.
Strasburg-based Mercury Paper, also owned by Sinar Mas, uses APP raw materials to make toilet paper and tissue products sold under the Paseo brand.
Mercury expanded its manufacturing-distribution center near the Interstate 81-and 66 interchange in Shenandoah County in 2010 and relocated its corporate headquarters to the site. The $21 million facility employs more than 150 people.
Mercury Paper says it follows strict policies to ensure that its suppliers are sustainable.
In a letter to Kroger CEO David Dillon, McDonnell said, “The organizations pressing for this boycott are focused neither on the best interests of Virginia’s citizens, nor your customers, and are unaware of Mercury’s commitment to environmental sustainability throughout its supply chain.”
“Mercury Paper is an important part of Virginia’s economic recovery, and Kroger’s decision will harm this business,” the letter said. “They have created jobs in a struggling part of our state through advanced technology and by bolstering trade.“
Several other elected officials — including U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, Del. Todd Gilbert, and Strasburg Mayor Timothy Taylor — have also spoken up in defense of Mercury Paper.
Goodlatte, whose 6th District includes Shenandoah County, has written letters to the CEOs of Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Target, Costco, Kmart and Safeway, urging them to stand firm against the Greenpeace campaign.
In addition to Kroger, other companies deciding not to use Sinar Mas products include Food Lion, Hasbro, Nestle and Staples.
I have been travelling to Indonesia for many years and have been engaged in assessing the APP operations on Sumatra. Greenpeace’s campaign is pure propaganda. APP abides by all Indonesian laws, is operating on federally granted plantation concessions, employs 70,000 people at good wages, helps prevent encroachment into national parks, and conserves, by law, 30-40% of native forest within its concessions. APP’s plantation forestry is world-class, comparable to Brazil and South Africa. They are GROWING TREES for Pete’s sake. What more sustainable thing can a company do? Please contact me for more information.
Feb. 1, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Patrick Moore is paid to advocate on behalf of Asia Pulp & Paper. His “independent reports” use language directly from APP’s press materials. He is not a credible voice in this discussion.
Feb. 1, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Todd, How about adding some information other than attacking my credibility. Who are you? I was a leader of Greenpeace for 15 years, then parted ways to seek solutions. I support sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. APP is operating entirely within the law. Indonesian forestry law is as advanced as any other country. Greenpeace takes advantage of the fact that people in North America and Europe are far away from where APP is operating. APP is growing eucalyptus and acacia trees on less than 1.5% of the area of Sumatra. How could this possibly “destroy the rainforest” or “cause extinction of the Sumatran Tiger” as Greenpeace falsely claims?
Feb. 1, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Who I am is irrelevant here, although I have spent a lot of time in Indonesia looking at the social, environmental, and economic impact of APP’s operations.
My point is that you are paid by APP to promote its interests. That is a fact you should declare.
Furthermore there is plenty of evidence to show that APP is clearing rainforests in Sumatra as claimed by Greenpeace. And 1.5% of Sumatra is an enormous amount of land for a single company to control. 70,000 jobs is tiny in comparison—it is certainly not 1.5% of Sumatra’s workforce.
Feb. 1, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Actually it is relevant who you are. Otherwise you have zero credibility. And I did say I have been “engaged” in Indonesia, for over 10 years now. You claim that 70,000 jobs is “tiny”, and that 1.5% of Sumatra is “enormous”. My question was how can APP “destroy the rainforests of Sumatra” and “cause extinction of the Sumatran Tiger”, while operating on only 1.5% of the land. Of course this is impossible. It is also obvious that land must be cleared if it is to be converted into forest plantations. This is also true of land converted to agriculture which impacts native forest far more than plantation forestry. Perhaps you would deny Indonesians the right to feed themselves as well as the right to grow trees to make paper?
Feb. 2, 2012 at 12:27 PM
It’s relative Patrick. 70,000 jobs is not 1.5% of the jobs in Sumatra. APP alone is not being blamed for the extinction of tigers but as it happens APP does control large blocks of tiger habitat. Given there are less than 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, clearing these forests is a risk to tigers. I agree that there are a number of drives of deforestation in Sumatra, including smallholder agriculture, oil palm, and timber, but that doesn’t absolve APP of the damage it is causing to what forest remains in Sumatra. Finally you act as if APP has provided substantial economic returns to the people of Indonesia when in fact it hasn’t. For the billions of dollars Indonesia has invested in the sector during the past 18-20 years, most of the benefits have accrued to a privileged few. The jobs and land bank data you cite simply prove that APP is grossly underperforming from an economic standpoint. But lest we forget, APP is undermining jobs here at home—far more than the 150 jobs at the Mercury plant.
Feb. 3, 2012 at 02:57 AM
So, you are not going to tell us who you are but would rather skulk about with your misinformation. Forestry is a land-intensive industry, like agriculture. In industrialized countries less than 5% of the workforce is required to grow all our food and timber yet these activities take up most of the land impacted by our civilization. So don’t give me the line that 70,000 jobs is a pittance, it is very important in Indonesia where 30 million people live below the poverty line. And of course you play into the US timber industries inclination to oppose Indonesian imports, as they compete with higher-cost domestic products. Perhaps you would use some actual numbers rather than employing “Occupy” rhetoric about the “privileged few”. APP contributes positively to Indonesian society. At least you admit that APP is not responsible for extinction. In fact APP helps protect national parks from illegal encroachment. Your campaign against them is wrong-headed, destructive, and based on lies.
Feb. 3, 2012 at 01:12 PM
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