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Last Tuesday, Greenpeace activists made a bold announcement outside of Mattel headquarters in Los Angeles by hanging a massive sign announcing to the world that Ken was breaking up with Barbie. The sign read “Barbie, it’s over. I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.” Developed as an economic tool by Mattel, the celebrity-like relationship of the two product figureheads was used to bring attention to the presence of timber fibers found in the packaging used to distribute Barbie that can be traced to Indonesian rainforests.
Despite occupying over 1% of the Earth’s surface, Indonesia provides habitat for 12% of all mammal species, such as the Sumatran tiger, and 17% of all reptile, bird and amphibian species.
Toy companies such as Mattel, Disney, Hasbro and Lego are being implicated by Greenpeace’s investigation into Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), the packaging supplier for the companies. Mattel is the largest designer, manufacturer and marketer of toy products worldwide and Disney is the world’s largest merchandise licensor. Last Tuesday’s campaign demanded that toy companies stop doing business with Asia Pulp & Paper, which Greenpeace has previously accused on numerous occasions of destruction of the rainforest and it’s endangered species.
In their major findings, Greenpeace cited that their forensic testing showed “regular use” of mixed tropical hardwood (MTH), or rainforest fibers in major toy brand packaging, such as Mattel and Disney. Greenpeace also included in their report that MTH clearance from Indonesia’s rainforests and peat swamp forests makes up one fifth of the fiber pulped in Asia Pulp & Paper’s mills, indicating deforestation of critical land. While Greenpeace did not cite the percentage of fibers from Indonesia’s forests found in the packaging, Asia Pulp & Paper industry stated in a June 8th post on the company’s Rainforest Realities blog that they are “Happy to share the scientific analysis of our packaging materials with anyone who wants to review it.”
Asia Pulp & Paper verifies that their packaging materials contains more than 95% of recycled paper sourced from around the world, and less than two percent of the pulp in carton boxes comes from legal and sustainable Indonesia pulpwood plantations. The remainder is from Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certified forests.
The Greenpeace statistic that one fifth of the fiber pulped in Asia Pulp & Paper’s mills is rainforest and peat comes from a 2007 report, which does not accurately reflect the current goals and production of Asia Paper & Pulp. The chain of custody which was used to trace the packaging back to China and Indonesia was possible due to the objective of certified forest management, such as the PEFC certification which Asia Pulp & Paper uses. Certification makes it possible to track any certified product back to its original source, which guarantees that wherever it came from was using a long-term sustainable forest management plan. It also guarantees the the pulp produced was done so legally, complying with the country of origin laws as well as the laws in the country where the pulp product would be imported.
Since 2007, Asia Pulp & Paper has implemented a number of changes. The last few months alone have marked what Asia P&P referred to as “the beginning of a new era of international cooperation with Indonesia”. The Indonesian President signed the official enactment of the forest moratorium earlier this year, which will put a two year hold on the issuance of new concessions on peat lands and in forests. Asia Pulp & Paper has made many demonstrations of their commitment to this moratorium and intentions to support Indonesia as it works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve natural forests and wildlife while investing in economic and social development.
On April 5th Asia Pulp & Paper announced it’s expanding partnership with Carbon Conservation, an environmental and sustainability consulting firm, to help craft Vision 2020, a road map of sustainability principles across all aspects of the company’s Indonesian operations from today to the year 2020. Asia Pulp & Paper also recently laid out a series of research and development programs the company will undertake during the current two-year moratorium on the granting of new forest and peat licenses as part of Indonesia’s commitment on Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).
Additional programs planned over the coming two years include an ambitious independent study on the impact of plantation development and greenhouse gas emissions on all soil types and enhancing key conservation areas, including creation of valuable wildlife corridors. In conversation with claims made by Greenpeace, research and pilot programs involving the protection of key Indonesian endangered species, including the Sumatran Tiger, Javan Rhino and Orangutan, will be developed as well.
The attention Greenpeace brought to Indonesia’s rainforest is of high importance due to the changes which not only the pulp and paper industry in the region is undergoing, but what is changing in Indonesia as a country. According to the Indonesian Pulp & Paper Industry, understanding that natural forest cannot sustainably supply the need of the timber and pulp and paper industry, the government has allocated around 5% of Indonesia’s landmass for the forest plantation industry on degraded forest and bare land.
The Industry is “disappointed in Greenpeace’s tactics to exploit the stereotype of backwoods loggers in developing nations who cleared entire forests with no regard for the environmental impact”, and instead say that Indonesian forestry practices are far more sophisticated. Asia Pulp & Paper deemed Greenpeace’s actions urging companies to stop doing business with Indonesia as “simply irresponsible”.
The advocacy of groups such as Greenpeace that bring worldwide attention to vital issues such as deforestation in critical areas around the globe is invaluable. However, there is often misconception associated with the shocking social tactics, such as well-known toys making environmental statements. Fueled by the social and consumer impact of mass distributed toys, such as Barbie, upon the environment, the long standing stigmas surrounding the pulp and paper industries as destroying the environment may be due for an update.
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