By Arun Sudhaman
JAKARTA: Controversial Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has called in new PR agency support after incumbent firm Weber Shandwick resigned the lucrative business.
APP, which is under sustained attack by Greenpeace over its environmental record, has instead appointed Cohn & Wolfe to handle its global PR account. The development comes after a recent Greenpeace report attacked APP parent Sinar Mas for ‘pulping the planet’.
It is understood that Weber Shandwick did not resign the seven-figure account, which it has held for three years, as a direct result of the Greenpeace report. Rather, the Holmes Report believes that strategic differences between the client and agency had surfaced over a number of months. APP parent Sinar Mas, which appointed Bell Pottinger to handle its PR earlier this year, has also faced intense scrutiny over its role as a major producer of palm oil.
Cohn & Wolfe global CEO Donna Imperato confirmed the appointment and told the Holmes Report that “APP has been treated unfairly.”
“The company has a very good story to tell and we’re partnering with them to make sure the story is going to be treated accurately,” added Imperato.
The account will be led by Cohn & Wolfe corporate director Geoff Beattie in the firm’s London office. The agency’s strong sustainability offering is believed to have been a factor in APP’s decision to select it ahead of other global networks. The agency will service the business across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, including Australia.
APP MD of sustainability and stakeholder engagement Aida Greenbury declined to comment, but hit back at the Greenpeace report, which attacked the company for illegal logging in Indonesia and also targeted brands such as Walmart and Kentucky Fried Chicken. APP has commissioned an audit by ITS Global in response, and Greenbury called Greenpeace’s claims “baseless allegations.”
Greenpeace has dismissed APP’s audit as “a joke”.