Amsterdam/Arnhem, December 2, 2002 – Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) has hung a “jungle curtain” in front of the entrance of Akzo Nobel’s head office in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Staff and visitors are being greeted by the sound of chainsaws. Friends of the Earth is protesting against Akzo’s plans that involve cutting down approximately 48 thousand hectares of Indonesian tropical rainforest area. There is a ban on this kind of clear cutting in Indonesia.
Akzo Nobel has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MuO) with a Singapore company that plans to build a pulp factory on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan. Akzo has agreed to build a chemical plant that will manufacture bleaching agents for this factory. Nearly 48 thousand hectares of tropical rainforest area will be cut down and replace by plantations to supply the pulp factory with wood pulp.
Indonesia’s pulp and paper industry demands far more wood than its plantations can supply. As a result more and more tropical rainforest area is being destroyed. Between 1988 and 1999 a mere 8 percent of the wood used for pulp originated from plantations, the remaining 92 percent came from tropical rainforests.
In past decades, tropical rainforest destruction in Indonesia has reached extreme proportions. The current annual rate of deforestation is two million hectares. At this rate, Kalimantan will have no rainforests left by 2010.
Friends of the Earth Netherlands has repeatedly asked Akzo Nobel to withdraw from this project. The company has refused to comply. There is no indication that Akzo Nobel intends to withdraw from the Memorandum of Understanding, despite the obvious negative environmental impacts of the resulting project.
A MoU is an agreement for a certain period of time. At the end of this period, parties have the option to continue or discontinue the agreement. Akzo has a chance to step out of its Mou at the end of this year. Milieudefensie says that it should seize this chance: Akzo cut it out!
Akzo is the second company in the Filthy Five series of Friends of the Earth Netherlands. The series highlights Dutch companies that are not taking their corporate responsibility seriously in foreign countries. The alarming situations uncovered in these cases illustrate the need for binding international legislation for multinationals.
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