Former Singapore Environment Council head joins Indonesian firm allegedly linked to forest fires

LOUISA TANG Today Online 29 Jan 16;

SINGAPORE — Former chief executive of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) Jose Raymond has been appointed vice president of corporate affairs (Singapore) at Asia Pulp & Paper, a company that produces pulp, paper and packaging.

The company stirred up controversy last year, when the SEC temporarily restricted the use of the paper producer’s Singapore Green Label certification, after it emerged that there were alleged links to the Indonesian forest fires causing the transboundary haze.

Following that, as well as investigations by the council and the National Environment Agency, supermarkets such as NTUC FairPrice, Prime and Sheng Shiong pulled the company’s products such as toilet rolls and tissue papers off their shelves.

Ms Aida Greenbury, managing director of sustainability at Asia Pulp & Paper, said of her firm’s new hire: “Mr Raymond will manage the company’s relationships with its stakeholders, key customers and Singaporean consumers. He brings a wealth of experience over his 20-year career as a journalist, business manager and administrator, as well as expertise in issues pertaining to sustainability.”

Mr Raymond told TODAY this was an “amazing opportunity” and he was “thankful that the company has chosen a Singaporean as one of its senior executives”.

“APP has been on a transformation journey on the road to being a leader in sustainability,” he added.

Mr Raymond headed the SEC from late 2011 to January 2015.

Before this new appointment, he was the senior director of communications and stakeholder management at the Singapore Sports Hub.

The current vice-president (finance) of the Singapore Swimming Association, Mr Raymond had posted on Facebook an advisory from the association during the haze period last October, talking about how the haze “destroys the months of hard work put into preparing for programmes and events” when they have to be cancelled, and the time and effort put into the events are “wasted beyond measurement”. 
He added in the advisory: “On our part, the SSA (Singapore Swimming Association) will seek legal advice and may consider joining other parties and individuals in any class action suit which is brought against any Singapore-listed company which is linked to the burning of forests in Indonesia which is now causing one of the worst haze episodes to affect the region and in particular Singapore.”

Asia Pulp and Paper, which is not listed on the Singapore Exchange, is owned by the Widjaja family’s Sinar Mas Group, an Indonesian conglomerate, which also runs Singapore-listed firms.

Ms Greenbury had said in a letter to TODAY last October that Asia Pulp and Paper has a “zero-burn” policy since 1996, so its suppliers do not use fire to clear land. “Though there are fires in our suppliers’ concessions that were not started by APP or our suppliers, we are doing all we can to suppress them.”

When contacted to comment on Mr Raymond’s move, the SEC declined to do so.

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