'Illogical'

"You cannot expand secretly in Indonesia because we have to get approval from so many levels of the government"

Aida Greenbury,
APP sustainability director

Aida Greenbury, APP's sustainability director, told Al Jazeera that the company was "operating based on legality and ultimately based on areas allocated by the [Indonesian] government".

"You cannot expand secretly in Indonesia because we have to get approval from so many levels of the government," she said.

"To raise it to 17 million tonnes would require roughly eight million hectares of area. This is illogical because it is not in line with government policy anyway."

But Greenpeace said Sinar Mas, which is the brand owner of Singapore's Golden Agri-Resources, was aiming to expand into forests that shelter endangered Sumatran tigers, as well as into deep peatlands which trap huge amounts of greenhouse gases, seen as crucial to the battle against climate change.

Forest destruction is mainly why Indonesia is the world's third-largest emitter [AFP]

Greenpeace had previously accused palm oil producer PT Smart Tbk, another Sinar Mas subsidiary, of clearing virgin rainforests and peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations.

PT Smart issued a statement saying it was "committed not to plant oil palm trees on peatland, primary forests nor convert land with high conservation value".

Daud Dharsono, PT Smart's president director, urged its customers to await the results, expected this month, of an investigation by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) - an industry body of planters, consumers and green groups - into the Greenpeace accusations.

"We have been in touch with all our customers on our sustainability practices and request that they continue to seek clarity directly with us should they have any concerns," he said.

Boycott call

But several top palm oil buyers, including Unilever and Nestle, have already said they will stop buying from Sinar Mas and Greenpeace also called on major supermarket chains Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour to stop buying APP paper products.

"Sinar Mas's 'sustainability commitments' are not worth the paper they are written on and some of the world's best known brands are literally pulping the planet by buying from them"

Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace campaigner

It also urged food firms Campbell Soup Company, Dunkin' Donuts and Pizza Hut, as well as cosmetics firm Shiseido, to stop buying Sinar Mas palm oil.

"Sinar Mas's 'sustainability commitments' are not worth the paper they are written on and some of the world's best known brands are literally pulping the planet by buying from them," Bustar Maitar, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said.

The destruction of rainforests and peatlands is the main reason Indonesia is considered the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president, recently announced a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions in exchange for $1bn in aid from Norway, conditioned on verifiable cuts to greenhouse emissions.

But Greenpeace has joined other concerned groups in questioning the value of such commitments from a country that freely acknowledges massive corruption across its forestry sector leading to rampant illegal logging.

"Millions of hectares of forests including hundreds of thousands of hectares under Sinar Mas control are not part of the deal with Norway," Maitar said.

"This loophole will undermine all attempts to reduce Indonesia's emissions."