An 18-month investigation conducted by Transparentem unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports. The findings were presented to 23 western companies, fifteen of whom agreed to help remediate the five factories by defining specific resolutions. In addition, the American Apparel and Footwear Association – which includes Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and 120 other companies – announced a new policy on “responsible recruitment” that requires “supply chain partners” to make sure no workers pay recruitment fees and “workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement”.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) jointly published Towards Better Modern Slavery Reporting, a review of global modern slavery legislation. It highlighted gaps in legislation and provides clear recommendations for governments and companies to enhance future modern slavery reporting.
Glycidol and acrylamide - carcinogenic above certain levels but only currently controlled in the EU - have been detected in biscuit products in Hong Kong and Malaysia. Hong Kong authorities and local regulators are testing and defining safe limits to evaluate the risks before controls are put in place.
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.
Printing company Tat Seng Packaging Group (Singapore) pleaded guilty to three counts under the Sewerage and Drainage (Trade Effluent) Regulations and was fined in January $4,000 on each count. Another charge was taken into consideration during sentencing.
It had been caught four times for polluting Singapore's sewers with toxic industrial used water. But that did not stop printing company Tat Seng Packaging Group from illegally discharging copper-tainted water yet again in September 2016.
Although 2015 saw worldwide demand for graphic paper decline for the first time ever, the paper and forest-products industry as a whole is growing, albeit at a slower pace than before, as other products are filling the gap left by the shrinking graphic-paper market. Packaging is growing all over the world, along with tissue papers, and pulp for hygiene products. The paper and forest-products industry is changing, morphing, and developing, in terms of industry structure and market segments. The industry is also facing challenges to manage short-to-medium-term ‘grade turbulence’, finding cost efficiencies, and finding new markets for forest products.
In November 2016 WWF Indonesia suspended its membership of APRIL's Stakeholder Advisory Committee because of a lack of progress implementing their sustainable forest management plan, failing to abide by government policy on peatland protection, and a lack of transparency on business operations.
WWF have called on APRIL to have independent, third party verification on their progress with the forest management plan, as well as filling policy gaps to address deforestation in High Conservation Value forest and High Carbon Stock forest, as well as social issues and peat development.
Researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities in the US estimated there were more than 90,000 early deaths in Indonesia in areas closest to haze-belching fires, and several thousand more in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia. The new estimate, reached using a complex analytical model by combining satellite data with models of health impacts from smoke exposure and readings from pollution monitoring stations, is far higher than the previous official death toll given by authorities of just 19 deaths in Indonesia. It triggered calls for action to tackle the “killer haze”.
According to the World Bank, forest fires in Indonesia last year caused the country at least $16 billion economic losses, which is equivalent to 1.9 percent of its GDP. The haze caused by the fire blanketed Singapore, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in September and October, which was cleared by the rainy season in early November. Many of the fires were set by smallholders and companies to clear land for agriculture, especially palm oil, which makes it difficult for Indonesian authorities to respond to the fires.
Regarding the choking haze in Indonesia, 23 companies have been punished by Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, while over 33 plantation companies are being investigated. The Singaporean government said it plans to take action against firms linked to haze-causing fires.
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.
A toolkit, named the HCS Approach, has been developed by a group of organisations with the aim of identifying High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. The toolkit was endorsed last week by major NGOs and plantation companies in Singapore including Golden Agri Resources, APP, Wilmar, Greenpeace, WWF, RAN, Unilever and The Forest Trust. The toolkit is seen as a crucial element in developing sustainable plantations and the companies involved will now begin the steps towards implementation in the field. HCS sits alongside HCV
An independent study by The Forest Trust and Ata Marie have found that APP has sufficient plantation resources to supply a massive new mill being built in OKI, South Sumatra. The study did however uncover one minor gap in supply in 2020. Aida Greenbury, APP’s managing director of sustainability said “The TFT report forecasts a minor gap in supply in 2020. However it is clear that with a harvesting rotation of around five years, improvements made now can bridge that gap by increasing productivity of supplier plantations through improved yield, better tree stock and reduction of waste. As such, we have been developing an action plan to ensure we have sufficient plantation fibre to meet the pulp requirements of our existing mills as well as our future mill in South Sumatra, in line with our target to become a 100% plantation business for pulp production.
A new paper by Chatham House and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that timber harvested illegally in Africa, Asia and Latin America continues to be sold on world markets, despite international efforts to curb the trade. Experts say that the EUTR and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are complementary. However, there is a lack of coordination between the agencies involved in enforcing the rules of the two systems. One of the biggest loopholes identified is that both CITES- and FLEGT-licenced timber is exempt from the due diligence requirements under the EUTR, so fraudulent paperwork could escape scrutiny.
After Golden Agri Resources expands policy, over 50% of world's palm oil bound by zero deforestation commitments
Over half the world's palm oil traded internationally is now bound by zero deforestation commitments after Singapore-based Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) extended its forest conservation policy across all palm oil it produces, sources and trades.
The stepped-up policy matches the commitment made by Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil company, last December and means that over half the world's palm oil is now covered by zero deforestation pledges.
Jakarta, 3 September 2013 - The palm oil sector was the single largest driver of deforestation in Indonesia between 2009-2011, accounting for about a quarter of the country’s forest loss, revealed Greenpeace International in new mapping analysis published today. The analysis shows that significant deforestation took place in concessions currently owned by members of the palm oil industry’s largest sustainability organisation, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, including companies such as Singapore-based Wilmar International. More damning is the revelation that RSPO concessions accounted for 39% of the fire hotspots on palm oil concessions in Riau during January-June 2013.
"The RSPO wants its members to be industry leaders in sustainability, but its current standards leave them free to destroy forests and drain peatland. Year after year, Indonesia's forest fires and haze wreak havoc on the region, and the palm oil sector is a main culprit. While RSPO members might have no-fire policies, the peatland they have cleared and drained is like a tinderbox – one spark is all it takes," said Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace International’s Indonesia Forest Campaign.