Mattel drops paper company linked to Indonesia deforestation
Responding to a campaign by Greenpeace, toy giant Mattel, maker of the famed Barbie doll line, announced Wednesday that it will stop buying paper and packaging that the environmental group has linked to rain forest destruction in Indonesia.
The El Segundo company said it will tell suppliers to avoid wood fiber from companies “that are known to be involved in deforestation.” Among those companies, Greenpeace said in a statement, is Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) group.
“The rain forests of Indonesia should be for species like the Sumatran tiger, not for throwaway toy packaging," Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace’s campaign to save the forests in Indonesia, said in the statement "That’s why it is such good news that Mattel has developed a new paper buying policy."
The group urged Asia Pulp & Paper to follow in the path of its sister company, Golden Agri-Resources, which “has already committed to clean up its act and has won back lucrative contracts."
Greenpeace has pledged to push other companies, such as Disney and Hasbro, to take similar action to protect rain forests.
Mattel's move comes after Greenpeace tested packaging from the company's toys, packaged in Indonesia, and found the cardboard contained significant amounts of timber from Indonesian rain forests. The group used Mattel's advertising campaign that featured a "reunion" between Barbie and Ken to draw attention to the packaging, sending an activist dressed as Ken and another as Barbie, who drove a pink skip loader to the company's corporate office in June. They hung a banner from the building that read: “Barbie: It’s Over. I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.”
Mattel’s new policy also includes safeguards against buying wood fiber from tree plantations established in areas where natural forests once stood, a practice that is driving deforestation, Greenpeace said.
The toy maker also said it intends to increase the amount of recycled paper it uses, and to increase the use of wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
"Mattel is committed to advancing the use of sustainably-sourced paper and wood fiber in our packaging and products," a statement on the company's website said. "Mattel will strive to implement these fundamental principles to guide our efforts and maximize, to the extent feasible, the use of post-consumer recycled content and sustainable fiber."
The company also said it will "maximize post-consumer recycled content where possible, while maintaining packaging and product integrity and compliance with applicable laws and regulations."
It pledged to use only fiber whose source is known and traceable, and which is harvested "in compliance with applicable laws and regulations" locally, nationally and internationally, and in accordance with "international guidelines and treaties to protect the rights of indigenous peoples."
The company said it will establish specific goals and report on its progress publicly.
[Updated, 11:38 a.m.: A statement from Asia Pulp & Paper said the company “applauds Mattel’s commitments to recycling, wood legality, protection of High Conservation Value Forest, respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and robust auditing and certification procedures."
The company added that it "supports all credible industry certification, however, we strongly urge companies to not limit their procurement policies to one standard, in this case FSC, which discriminates against products from Indonesia and other developing markets. APP supports policies that protect both the environment and the vital income which developing countries receive from the pulp & paper industries.”]
[Updated, 11:55: Mattel spokesperson Jules Andres said the company this summer directed its suppliers "to not source paper and pulp from Asia Pulp & Paper. She said Mattel's new policy "directs our printers not to contract with controvesial sources," and that Mattel considers Asia Pulp & Paper "a controversial source."]
Indonesia has one of the fastest rates of forest destruction in the world. The Indonesian government estimates that nearly 2.5 million acres of rain forest is being lost every year, according to Greenpeace.
Indonesia’s rain forest, the largest in the world after those in the Amazon and the Congo, is home to orangutans, tigers, elephants, clouded leopards and scores of other endangered plants and animals. In the last half-century, about 40% of the country’s forests have been cleared, mainly for palm oil plantations and pulp and paper operations.
Despite a partial moratorium announced last month, Indonesian government plans suggest, by some accounts, that nearly half of the remaining natural forest could be cut in the next two decades.
-- Geoff Mohan
Photo: Environmental activist Elise Nabor in a Barbie outfit, driving her "Barbiedozer" is stopped by an El Segundo police officer a half block away from the Mattel building in El Segundo, during a June protest. Credit: Mark Boster