SEC announces stricter criteria for Singapore Green Label certification

SEC announces stricter criteria for Singapore Green Label certification
The new Green Label shown at the launch yesterday. Applications for the enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme are now open, the SEC said. Photo: Jason Quah
Published: 4:00 AM, January 11, 2017

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.