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Jakarta Post

Singapore's largest retailer among firms yet to sign 'haze-free' declaration

  • Jessica Lim

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Tue, October 6, 2015   /  09:50 am
Singapore's largest retailer among firms yet to sign 'haze-free' declaration The financial skyline is seen through a thick haze, Saturday, in Singapore. (AP/Wong Maye-E) (AP/Wong Maye-E)

The financial skyline is seen through a thick haze, Saturday, in Singapore. (AP/Wong Maye-E)

NTUC FairPrice is among seven companies that have not signed a declaration stating that their paper products are free of raw materials from firms being investigated for the forest fires in Indonesia.

Ten other companies have signed the form, said the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which had contacted those that had paper products certified under its green label scheme.

About 20 per cent of the paper products carried by FairPrice are sourced from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the five firms under probe, through a local distributor.

"We assure that prompt and firm actions will be taken on any of our suppliers if they are found to be responsible for any unethical practices that contribute to the haze," said FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng, without specifying what the actions would be.

He said the firm had approached APP to clarify its practices.

In the meantime, the supermarket chain said it would continue to carry APP products.

Late last month, the National Environment Agency (NEA) began legal action against the five companies - Singapore-listed APP and four Indonesian firms - it believes to be behind the burning.

Yesterday, APP told The Straits Times it had provided information in response to NEA's request, and invited the agency's officials to visit its operations in Indonesia.

It said: "We need to respect the ongoing investigations and efforts by the government of Indonesia and not jump to conclusions." It also said it would work with all parties to find a solution to the haze.

Among the seven firms that have not signed the declaration, printer paper supplier Mukim Fine Papers has stopped buying from APP as well as two other companies that are Indonesian.

"We will sell the remaining stock and then stop taking from these companies," said its business development manager Ben Chua, 41. "The companies are still under investigation but, judging from public sentiment, we want to signal to APP that we do not accept such actions."

He said he will sign the declaration when all his firm's APP stock has been sold in about a month or two.

Another company, Malaysian Newsprint Industries, said it did not work with the firms fingered but was waiting for its legal team to go over the declaration before it signed the form, said its technical support supervisor Tan Kin Chyuan.

A third company, Universal Sovereign Trading, the sole distributor for APP products in Singapore, said it had crossed out APP on the form before signing it.

Tissue paper supplier Tipex declined comment. The remaining firms could not be contacted .

Meanwhile, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said yesterday it had worked with the Association of Banks in Singapore on responsible financing by banks and would be issuing guidelines soon. Said its spokesman: "MAS is of the view that financial institutions have a role to play in supporting efforts to promote sustainable development."

It also said it supported plans by the Singapore Exchange to mandate sustainability reporting by listed companies regarding the environmental and social aspects of their businesses. Implementation is targeted for financial year 2017, following an ongoing public consultation exercise.

MAS added it would support the development of guidance for institutional investors on engaging investee companies on these issues, and said "lenders, investors, consumers, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and the media" all had roles to play.

Companies that signed the SEC declaration are required to inform the council if they start to do business with parties suspected of being responsible for the haze.

SEC executive director Edwin Seah said it would approach firms that did not sign the form. "We will investigate, then decide if we need to revoke their green labels."

He said the delay could be due to the firms making checks, as supply chains can be very intricate.

Consumers Association of Singapore president Lim Biow Chuan urged consumers to stop supporting companies that have not pledged to be socially responsible. "This will send a strong signal to the errant companies that consumers' goodwill should not be taken for granted," he said.

Hazy conditions here deteriorated yesterday owing to the prevailing winds blowing westward from Kalimantan in Borneo to Singapore, said the NEA in a 7pm update yesterday. The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) then was 123-155, in the unhealthy range.

Today, the PSI is expected to be in the mid to high sections of the unhealthy range, with a slight improvement expected due to changing wind directions.

Shipping executive Ricky Chan, 53, said he would not be boycotting the listed products. "The haze is a problem that is not easy to solve. Singapore is so small, the companies supply not just to us but the whole world," said the father of two. "Even if I stop buying such things, it won't change anything."

But consumer Chan Chin Hee, 50, finds the list useful.

Said the businessman: "Now I can choose the companies that are not involved. The haze is really too bad now, my throat is so sore. This is the only way I can express my anger." (k)(++++)

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