Following their surprising announcement from earlier this winter, Greenpeace is continuing its active role in driving the conversation about Indonesian wood sourcing.

An article by Mark Rushton in today’s online edition of Pulp and Paper International features an interesting interview with Andy Tait, described as a senior forest campaigner at Greenpeace.  Tait gives a revealing and apparently candid description of the interactions between Asia Pulp and Paper and Greenpeace over the last year, leading up to the cessation of hostilities that was announced in February.  Interestingly, Tait indicates that there is no explicit agreement between APP and Greenpeace.  Instead, Greenpeace describes their position as a tacit acknowledgement of APP’s publicly stated policy position.  Importantly – in my opinion – this seems to give them ample room to withdraw their support should APP fail to live up to expectations.  Time will tell.

The Tait interview includes several other fascinating details, including a reference to a campaign against yet another Indonesian pulp and paper conglomerate called Asia Pacific Holdings International Limited or APRIL.  Greenpeace seems to be shifting its considerable clout into a campaign against this company.  Was the APP announcement a strategic shift of attention?  Who knows.  I know that APRIL was an unfamiliar name to me until this morning, but I know about them now.  I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

Implications for the FLEGT VPA license

Industry watchers, including this one, have been paying a lot of attention to Indonesia this winter because of its importance to the implementation of the new EU Timber Regulations (EUTR).  As of March 1, it is illegal for any company to import wood products into any EU country that were harvested in violation of laws in the sourcing country.  Responsibility for ensuring the legality of imported products falls to the company doing the importing (“placing on the market”) by implementing a “Due Diligence” process of sufficient detail to minimize the risk of illegality.  Needless to say, this is getting a lot of attention in the EU wood products marketplace.

To aid in the implementation and enforcement of the EUTR, the European Commission developed an initiative known to the world by the rather awful acronym:  FLEGT.  FLEGT stands for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade and offers voluntary cooperative mechanisms between (mostly) third-world timber sourcing countries and the consuming countries of the EU.  FLEGT provides for licensing programs which offer a “free pass” around the potentially onerous Due Diligence requirements of the EUTR.  One of these licensing programs (called Voluntary Partnership Agreements or VPA’s) is currently underway in Indonesia.

Like everything else that the EU does, the FLEGT process has been laborious and bureaucratic.  Progress over the last year has been painfully slow and promises to continue that way.  Initially there was some hope among importing companies (including clients of MixedWood) that the FLEGT VPA would be signed and ratified before the EUTR implementation deadline of March 1st.  That proved to be a fantasy.  The latest status update promises a signed agreement “in the months ahead” and indicates hopes for ratification “by the end of the year”.  In the interim, responsibility for EUTR compliance rests with importing companies and enforcement strategies remain a mystery.

What about Greenpeace and APRIL?

The question I have is this:  how likely is the Greenpeace campaign to delay or derail the the Indonesia FLEGT VPA?