(EnergyAsia, October 29 2010, Friday) — Greenpeace International said it has exposed an attempt by the Sinar Mas Group to cover up the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforest by its paper subsidiary, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP).

Greenpeace described as “flawed” an audit conducted by ITS GLOBAL’s Alan Oxley for APP that was aimed at discrediting evidence the green group had published in July revealing that APP had been actively clearing rainforest and peatland in Indonesia.

Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said: “Sinar Mas is getting increasingly desperate as it tries to cover up its continued role in rainforest destruction. By hiring Oxley as an auditor, it is now really scraping the bottom of the barrel – it seems anyone with any level of credibility is no longer willing to work with the group.

“If Sinar Mas was serious about sustainability, it would commit to no further deforestation and not hire industry apologists to cover its tracks.”

Greenpeace said the audit used outdated concession maps that do not contain the latest Sinar Mas concessions and it failed to use the correct documents to explain the company’s expansion plans.

The group added the audit failed to point out that the data sources Greenpeace relied on were also used by the Indonesian government as part of the basis for its climate change abatement scenario planning.

According to environmental group, the 89-page audit produced by Mr Oxley did not challenge the validity and accuracy of the photographic evidence of rainforest and peatland destruction in the Greenpeace report, which shows APP destroying the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger.

Greenpeace said it has since released more aerial photographs that captured ongoing clearance of deep peat by Sinar Mas in Kerumutan in Sumatra’s Riau region. The group added that the destructive practices showcases the company undermining Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and to protect its rainforests.

Due to the evidence of Sinar Mas’ illegal and destructive environmental practices in Indonesia, several leading companies have cancelled contracts with the palm oil and paper giant. Kraft has confirmed that it is phasing out APP paper and packaging, while Nestlé, Unilever and retailers such as Tesco and Metro group are implementing new policies that will also rule out supplies from APP, unless the company and its suppliers make substantial changes.

Sinar Mas’s PR firm, New York-based Weber Shandwick, has reportedly dropped APP as its client.

Mr Maitar said: “We are calling on all companies to drop their contracts with Sinar Mas until the group publicly announces and implements a policy to stop further deforestation and peatland destruction. We are also urging the Indonesian government to protect all peatlands, as well as expand its upcoming moratorium on rainforest destruction in new concessions to cover the vast areas that have already been slated for destruction in existing concessions.”