SINGAPORE: Supermarket chains NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong announced on Wednesday (Oct 7) that they would withdraw all paper products sourced from Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP), after the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) said it has instituted a temporary restriction on the use of the “Singapore Green Label” certification for the Indonesian firm's products.
In a press release, FairPrice said it carries 14 Housebrand products that are certified with the Singapore Green Label. Among them, two are Housebrand tissue products sourced from APP through a licensed distributor. In addition, all 16 APP-related products from various brands carried by the chain also have the Singapore Green Label certification, FairPrice said.
(Photo: Imelda Saad)
Products affected by the withdrawal include FairPrice Softpack Tissue 200s, and FairPrice Gold 3 Ply Facial Tissue 140s, supplied by APP. FairPrice will also withdraw all APP-related products, including those from Paseo, NICE and Jolly, by 5pm on Wednesday, it said.
NTUC FairPrice CEO Seah Kian Peng said: “We have been proactively monitoring the situation over the past week. We initiated meetings with the various parties concerned when the list of firms including APP, was named by the authorities as suspects for contributing to the haze.”
“As a fair business partner, we reserved taking action pending further information and investigation by the authorities. Our decision to withdraw all APP products is a result of the temporary restriction of their Green Label certification,” he added.
Meanwhile, NTUC Health Unity Pharmacy has announced that it does not purchase products from APP or any of the four companies in Indonesia suspected of contributing to the haze pollution in Indonesia.
In a statement on Wednesday, it said it has officially signed the form received from the Singapore Environmental Council and the Consumer Association of Singapore, which was issued to 17 firms calling on them to make this declaration.
"As the leading healthcare co-operative in Singapore, we are committed to being a responsible social citizen by advocating environmentally-friendly and sustainable business practices," said Mr Bernard Lee, managing director and head of Pharmacy and Health Food at NTUC Health. "We will continue to monitor new products, and work with companies that are certified under the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme.”
A sign at Cold Storage's Star Vista outlet announcing the supermarket's decision to suspend purchase of all APP products. (Photo: Diane Leow)
Sheng Siong said it would be pulling out all products by APP with immediate effect. Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, a spokesperson said Sheng Siong's e-commerce team will also not fulfil orders that consist of Paseo and Nice products,
The spokesperson added: "As we are not the direct producers of the products sold in our supermarkets, we rely on our suppliers to produce the required certifications in terms of sustainable sources."
Cold Storage has also suspended its purchase of products by APP. The supermarket chain has erected signs saying it is a "firm supporter of sustainability and eco-friendly business practices". It added that the APP products "will not be replenished once the stocks run out".
Meanwhile, Watsons Singapore said it does not stock APP brands Paseo, Nice and Jolly. In a statement issued on Thursday, the company stated that it was working with suppliers "to run an audit to ensure that products supplied to (it) are not directly procured from the six companies accused of contributing to the haze pollution".
“NO SUPPLIER HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BE INVOLVED”: APP
APP has said it has "nothing to hide" and "no supplier has been proven to be involved" in raging forest fires in Indonesia contributing to hazy conditions around the region.
In a statement issued to the media on Wednesday (Oct 7), APP - which is a member of Indonesia's Sinar Mas Group and has an office in Singapore - said it received a notice from Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) on Sep 25 and had responded in accordance to their deadline.
NEA had issued the notice under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, seeking information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions, as smoke from raging forest fires in Indonesia's Sumatra and Kalimantan had pushed air quality to unhealthy levels in Singapore.
APP added that it has invited NEA officials to visit its operations in Indonesia to demonstrate the company's no burning policy.
"If a supplier were found to have been involved in setting forest fires, our policy is clear and we would disengage that supplier. Thus far no supplier has been proven to be involved. It is premature therefore to make judgments until investigations by relevant authorities are completed," the statement said.
In the statement, APP said its list of pulpwood suppliers is public, and the company submits concession maps to the Indonesian government and World Resources Institute (WRI).
"We continue to implement our Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) round the clock, as well as deploying 2,900 trained firefighters and fire suppression helicopters to help deal with this tragic situation," APP said in the statement, adding that there are fires within their suppliers' concessions, but not started by the company or its suppliers.
"The fire situation is complex and both the Singapore and Indonesia governments and authorities are still investigating the situation."
APP products include Enlivo notebooks, Inspira paper and Paseo tissue paper.
The remaining companies and their subsidiaries are expected to respond to the declaration forms within one week.