Green scandal: How Indonesia’s pulp industry misleads the world’s fashion brands

Green scandal in Indonesia

In the era of environmental awareness, the phenomenon of greenwashing is increasingly common, where companies claim to be environmentally friendly while their actions speak otherwise. Indonesia is home to some prime examples.

To watch the investigation “Skandal Hijau,” please click on the embedded video below. A description of the story follows.

In the era of environmental awareness, the problem of greenwashing is increasingly common, where companies claim to be environmentally friendly while their actions speak otherwise. Prime examples are Royal Golden Eagle Group (RGE) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), major players in the wood pulp industry.

RGE and APRIL’s common products, such as paper and rayon, are largely derived from logged acacia and eucalyptus forests, contributing to deforestation and habitat destruction.

In June 2015, RGE pledged to eliminate deforestation from all its production operations, but field investigations and data analysis show this pledge is not being fulfilled. RGE and APRIL continue to obtain wood from deforested areas of Indonesia despite having committed not to do so.

This investigation reveals the greenwashing practices these firms have been linked to via shadow and shell companies in international tax havens. The result is complex ownership structures complex and opaque accountability.

The schemes have reached the global fashion industry as well. Well-known brands such as Marks and Spencer, Esprit, H&M, Uniqlo and Adidas source rayon from RGE, which is marketed as being environmentally friendly and “sustainable.” Ironically, some of these brands have committed to sustainability and zero deforestation standards.

Some experts have referred to this phenomenon as the “greenwashing domino effect,” which occurs when one company’s greenwashing triggers a chain reaction that then touches its business partners. Consumers become the ultimate victim, but the reputations of global brands, and therefore corporate bottom lines, may also be affected as questions are raised about transparency and the integrity of firms’ sustainability commitments.

On the surface, these companies shine with the promise of a greener future. However, the public has the right to know. This Narasi investigation highlights the need for greater scrutiny and action against greenwashing in the global industry with a case study of RGE and APRIL and their global impact.

This multimedia investigation was produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network for the “It’s a Wash” special project. The original story can be found at Narasi TV here.

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