More Stringent Criteria Set for Pulp, Paper Firms Under Enhanced Green Label Scheme

Channel NewsAsia Singapore News

January 1, 2014

Pulp and paper companies will need to meet stricter environmental standards, if they want to be certified under the Singapore Green Label Scheme (SGLS). The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) had revealed last month that it would enhance the scheme but details of the revised criteria were announced on Tuesday (Jan. 10).

To be awarded the green label for their products, the company, owner or concessionaire in charge of the plantation is required to have a zero-burning policy. Companies will now have to undertake "a comprehensive range of fire prevention and preparation activities so they can quickly detect and suppress fires before they get out of control," said the SEC. This includes daily hotspot monitoring, mapping of fire risks as well as putting in place firefighting training and equipment.

How peatlands are managed will also be assessed. For example, companies must take steps to protect biodiversity through proper assessment and water management. This is because "uncontrolled draining of peat to plant pulpwood timber makes it susceptible to fire," said SEC. The entire supply chain of a manufacturer - including plantations, pulp and paper mills, and distributors - will also need to be assessed and audited.

Previously, companies were only required to provide evidence that their raw material has been sourced sustainably. Other aspects, like packaging and manufacturing processes, were also taken into consideration. "We want every consumer in Singapore to know that our labelling scheme sets environmental performance standards that are among the highest anywhere in the world," said SEC chairman Isabella Loh, adding that the revised scheme is benchmarked against eco-labelling schemes in the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

New Risk-Based Evaluation System

A new risk-based evaluation system was also introduced as part of the green-labeling scheme. While companies will have to comply with the enhanced criteria, those deemed to be higher risks will be subjected to a more extensive audit, said SEC. As such, applicants will be further investigated by SEC or third party auditors who will carry out an in-depth enquiry into the company’s supply chain and manufacturing process, as well as its management of forests, fire and peatlands.

"The risk-based evaluation system is a safeguard against companies that may have the required paperwork but are not achieving sustainability in practice," explained SEC. Consumers can look out for the new green logo launched for pulp and paper products that meet the enhanced criteria. The new logo will be gradually introduced as companies become certified under the enhanced standard, said SEC. The old logo for pulp and paper products will be obsolete by July 1, 2018.

The existing SGLS logo will continue to be used by all other categories of products certified under the eco-labelling scheme. "We encourage consumers to exercise their right to choose and buy paper products with the Green Label," said president of local consumer watchdog CASE Lim Biow Chuan. “Together, the collective voice will help to send a strong signal to pulp and paper companies to put in place environmentally-friendly and sustainable business practices to help resolve the recurring haze issue in Singapore,” he added.

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