SEC announces stricter criteria for Singapore Green Label certification

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 11 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — Pulp and paper companies must now meet the fire and peatland management standards of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), in order to get its enhanced Singapore Green Label certification.

Launched yesterday, the enhanced label features stricter criteria such as full disclosure of a product’s supply chain, proper management of peatland, and measures to detect and suppress fires when they occur.

Peatland comprises wetlands that store rich amounts of carbon. When they are drained for plantation use, they become more likely to burn. Burning releases the stored carbon and causes haze, which has afflicted the region and caused hazardous air pollution in Singapore in 2015.

Applications for the enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme are now open, but companies may renew existing certification, which lasts for a year, under the scheme’s old criteria up until June 30 this year. This means the old logo for pulp and paper products will be obsolete by July next year. About 20 companies offering more than 30 pulp and paper products are on the old scheme.

The SEC, a charity, held a closed-door workshop on the enhanced scheme for about 20 companies yesterday.

So far, one company, Kimberly-Clark Professional, has indicated that it will apply for the new label for its Scott and Kleenex hand-towel and bath-tissue products.

“We want our customers to know we produce quality products manufactured to the highest environmental standards,” said Mr Anuj Lal, group general manager (Asia-Pacific) of Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Certification for the new label costs S$4,600 per product and lasts for three years, subject to a yearly audit. Previously, certification cost S$1,500 for the first year, and had to be renewed yearly for S$1,000. But if a product is deemed risky, based on factors such as the complexity of supply chain or location of the pulp’s source, the SEC may call for site audits, which will be done by either the council or third-party auditors.

Mr Chong Khai Sin, SEC’s head of eco-certifications, did not name examples of these third-party auditors, but said they are accredited to provide Forest Stewardship Council certification. The companies seeking certification will pay for the audits.

The revised scheme will be among the most stringent in the world, said SEC chairman Isabella Loh, who called on consumers to buy only products with the label.

Asked about pulp giant Asia Pulp and Paper’s Green Label status — which was restricted in October 2015 after it was linked to haze-causing fires in Indonesia — Ms Loh said it had not been renewed.

Another major pulp company, April Group, told TODAY it is keen to renew the Green Label — acquired since 2013 — for its PaperOne products.

Ms Lucita Jasmin, April’s director for Sustainability & External Affairs, said the company will study the enhanced criteria closely. “Based on SEC’s announced transition arrangements, we will be able to renew the label under the old criteria in 2017,” she added.

Asked about SEC’s search for a new executive director, Ms Loh said there were no updates, but there are candidates.

Late last year, the charity dismissed former executive director Edwin Seah although he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Two other employees were also dismissed without any reasons given.


More stringent criteria set for pulp, paper firms under enhanced Green Label Scheme
Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: 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 are 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-labelling 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.

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, 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.

New green label used for paper and pulp products (left) compared to the logo used for other categories of products. (Images: SEC)

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 Jul 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.

- CNA/ek

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