The rise of robots in manufacturing in Southeast Asia is likely to fuel modern-day slavery as workers who end up unemployed due to automation face abuses competing for a shrinking pool of low-paid jobs in a “race to the bottom”. Especially, the workers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines — at least 137 million people — risk losing their jobs because of the automation in the next two decades. Those workers are more vulnerable to workplace abuses as they jostle for fewer jobs at lower wages.
Indonesia is making it easier for foreigners to work here — but they will have to study as well. A decree by President Joko Widodo that is set to take effect on June will simplify Indonesia’s procedures for issuing work permits to foreigners, which are often hampered by delays, arbitrary denials and revocations, not to mention compulsory bribes to civil servants just to stamp the paperwork. Buried inside the order is a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in Southeast Asia. The foreign business community has been caught off guard by the new requirement.
Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women working in Asian factories supplying Gap and H&M being sexually and physically abused, according to two separate reports published by Global Labour Justice on gender-based violence in garment supply chains. More than 540 female workers at factories that supply the Gap and H&M have described incidents of threats and abuse. The reports claim that these allegations recorded between January and May this year in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are a direct result of pressure for quick turnarounds and low overheads. Gap and H&M are going to investigate the allegations and they welcome initiatives to tackle violence, including an ILO convention.
FSC has sent a "come clean" ultimatum to APP and its billionaire Indonesian owners, the Widjaja family, following evidence it continues to cut down tropical forests and operate through corporate proxies. A letter was sent to the pulp and paper giant on Monday which sets out the demands FSC expect APP to meet if they want to be readmitted to the council. The ultimatum comes after Greenpeace ended a five year truce with the company earlier this month following an investigation that revealed the company had been destroying tropical forests the entire time the two parties were cooperating on conservation. FSC have demanded APP respond to their letter by Monday, stating publicly their high level commitment to the council’s standards and proposing remedies to Greenpeace’s evidence of deforestation. By June 11th the company will also have to fully disclose their corporate structure and any other violations of the standards.
The publishing initiative run by Carnstone, The Book Chain Project, held its second Asia Summit on 24th of April in Shenzhen, China. It was an opportunity for all the stakeholders in the paper and pulp industry to get together to discuss the latest developments in responsible fibre sourcing. Among the 70 delegates there were paper mills, printers, publishers, retailers, timber experts, and NGOs. The aim of the Summit was to discuss the latest developments on responsible forest sourcing and to share best practice.
The first session included speakers from Carnstone, Chronicle Books, and Donnelly, who shared their understanding on forest sourcing and provided the customer perspective. Next, WWF introduced their work on increasing demand of certified and recycled paper products. IKEA also presented their forest traceability system. Then, IPE and China Water Risk provided their insights on industrial pollution and the water-use pressures present in China.
The next session focused on three major paper mills; UPM, APP and Chenming Paper, sharing their response to the growing expectations and regulations around paper manufacturing. This panel was also joined by TFT who shared their insights on how mills can develop and implement sustainable sourcing systems and encourage engagement further up the supply chain.
The certification schemes, FSC and CFCC, explained how they are evolving to ensure transparency and traceability in global forest supply chains. And the event closed with practical sessions from the Carnstone team, who guided mills and printers to get the most from the online Book Chain Project database. Printers and mills had an opportunity to ask questions, share feedback, and offer ideas and improvements for the future.
Speakers’ slides: https://bookchainproject.com/event?event=5
IPE’s Companies environmental performance monitoring database: http://www.ipe.org.cn/IndustryRecord/Regulatory.aspx?keycode=343j9f9ri329293r3rixxx
China Water Risk website: http://chinawaterrisk.org/
An introduction to FSC certification scheme: https://v.qq.com/x/page/g0639hql3zp.html
The publishing initiative run by Carnstone, The Book Chain Project, held its second Asia Summit on 24th of April in Shenzhen, China. It was an opportunity for all the stakeholders in the paper and pulp industry to get together to discuss the latest developments in responsible fibre sourcing. Among the 70 delegates there were paper mills, printers, publishers, retailers, timber experts, and NGOs. The aim of the Summit was to discuss the latest developments on responsible forest sourcing and to share best practice. Further reading and speakers’ slides: https://bookchainproject.com/news
Promising Future Project will be lunched in February in 2018 for suppliers in Book Chain Project. Promising Future Project is a 10-brand initiative carried out in 2016 and 2017 to promote interest in China’s social insurance scheme by factory workers. The project was created and delivered by Carnstone Asia, and supported by the Ethical Trading Initiative’s Hong Kong office. Phase 1 of Promising Future included the production of a 12-minute drama about the story of a worker called Xiao Li and her journey to find out about the benefits of joining social insurance, and the risks if she doesn’t. It also included creation of this information website for workers, and a factory manager webinar.
The Summit is going to take place on Tuesday 24th April 2018, which brings together organisations across the pulp, paper and publishing supply chain. The Summit will focus on learning about the latest developments in responsible forest sourcing, and an opportunity to share practical advice for paper makers on sourcing fibre responsibly. A wide range of attendees including paper mills from across Asia, participating publishers of Book Chain, NGO’s, representatives from certification schemes (FSC and CFCC) and technology providers will be invited. To register for the event, please sign up here.
Major fashion brands are sourcing viscose from factories in China, Indonesia and India which are polluting and damaging health, according to new report. The report cites evidence that carbon disulphide exposure is harming both factory workers and people living near viscose plants. Residential areas nearby the factory are polluted with carbon disulphide levels three times higher than the permitted limit. The report is calling for carbon disulphide to be completely eradicated from the viscose production process, and for all viscose production to occur in a closed loop system which eradicates chemical discharge and prevents harm to workers and the environment. Spokespeople from those brands said they will work continuously with its suppliers to improve conditions and ensure that they adhere to sustainable practices.
Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a history land tenure issues, but more recently they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. Some conflicts, however, remain unaddressed and a new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still feeling the effects of losing traditional forests to make way for plantations.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a ban on phthalates in toys marketed in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) countries of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Phthalates is a family of toxic, synthetic, high production volume industrial chemicals used mostly to make plastics softer and more flexible. (Relevant story: NRDC and Scientists Urge CPSC to Finalize Phthalate Bans)
WWF-Vietnam and the Center for People and Forests have launched a joint project under the “Responsible Asia Forestry & Trade” (RAFT) Partnership on sustainable forest management, focusing on classifying and identifying timber for international trade. Viet Nam is also at the final stage of signing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU.
One subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April), Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (Rapp), has constructed a 3km canal through thick peatland on the island of Pedang, Indonesia, which has led to the suspension of their partnership with WWF and Greenpeace. The canal is built for draining peatland for pulp plantations, which is against both the company’s sustainability standards, and also government regulations. However, the president and director of Rapp insisted the action is legal based on a plan approved by the Indonesian government back in 2013, which was before the catastrophic fires of 2015.
"Zero deforestation” champion creates new risks for Indonesia’s forests and carbon-rich peatlands with mega-scale pulp mill
A recent study released by 12 international and Indonesian NGOs reveal that Asia Pulp &Paper (APP) is building one of the world’s largest pulp mills without a sustainable wood supply in South Sumatra. This analysis indicates that the current planted area owned by APP is insufficient in supporting this new mill as well as the 2 existing mills. This report suggests that APP may fail to meet its ‘zero deforestation commitments’ made in 2013 which included ‘100% sustainable plantation wood for pulp’.
Indonesia’s anti-graft commission said government agencies have agreed on a plan to combat corruption in the forestry industry that costs the state billions of dollars in lost revenue and is behind fires that pollute Southeast Asia. The plan leans heavily on technology to build an accurate picture of where illegal deforestation and conversion of peatland into farmland is occurring, using Landsat satellites, drones and LIDAR pulsed laser-based mapping.
A new study published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that the role of agriculture in the destruction of mangrove forests in South-East Asia has been underestimated. The study is based on a 12-year assessment conducted between 2000 and 2012, which found that in South-East Asia mangroves were being lost at an average rate of 0.18%. Rice and palm oil plantations contributed nearly 40% to the lost. The author is calling for action as mangrove habitats in South-East Asia are highly biodiverse and are vital to the livelihood or millions of people.
According to a newly released report from a non-profit organization called Forest Trends, in the past few years, imports of rosewood, collectively known as hongmu, from Africa surged, which are prized by Chinese furniture manufacturers who use them to make products that are highly coveted status symbols.
Singapore’s National Environment Agency served Asia Pulp & Paper and four other companies with legal notice under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, because fires burning in the companies’ concessions in Indonesia. The air pollutant index in Singapore hit “hazardous” levels last week, and schools shut down. The haze even is harming relations between the two countries, with Singapore and also Malaysia.
India, through their national scheme the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), is the latest country to join PEFC. It is the fifth Asian country to join and can now continue the process of fully developing a national certification scheme and then receiving PEFC endorsement.
Many Southeast Asians are wondering if they will have to withstand another blanket of haze from rainforest fires as Indonesia enters its annual dry season.