Yesterday we released results of forensic testing we’ve done that directly links Cottonsoft toilet paper with the destruction of Indonesian rainforest. Cottonsoft is owned by notorious rainforest destroyer Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which have been documented many times by Greenpeace for trashing tiger habitat to feed its mills.
We called on New Zealanders to pressure our three major retailers – Foodstuffs, Progressive Enterprises and The Warehouse to drop the Cottonsoft brand and stock only 100% recycled or FSC certified paper products.
After a virtual avalanche of emails, The Warehouse took the responsible step and announced plans to suspend all orders of Cottonsoft. Progressives and Foodstuffs have yet to respond so keep the pressure on people! The most effective way we can get APP to stop trashing rainforests is to stop buying its products.
We’ve hit a raw nerve at Cottonsoft
Late last night, Cottonsoft released an outraged statement dripping with green wash which completely fails to address the fact that the world’s leading forensic paper testing scientists has confirmed that Cottonsoft toilet paper does contain Indonesian rainforest fibre.
Cottonsoft is a subsidiary of the notorious conglomerate Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). APP has already been dropped as a supplier by major companies around the world, including Kraft, Nestle, Unilever, Tesco and Carrefour because of their reliance on rainforest destruction to make pulp and paper products.
But Cottonsoft, a subsidiary of APP, claims all is OK because all four Cottonsoft retail brands have certification by the ‘Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes’ (PEFC). PEFC is a very weak certification so that’s nothing to crow about, but even by its weak standards only plantation timber can be used in products like toilet paper. Yet our forensic testing clearly shows the presence of rainforest timber in Cotttonsoft toilet paper.
So either Cottonsoft are deliberately misleading New Zealanders by claiming all their products are certified as sustainable - or Cottonsoft has accidentally admitted that PEFC-certified products contain rainforest timber, which places them at the heart of an international scandal.
To this end I’ve sent a letter to the Cottonsoft CEO and copied it to all major retailers.
Here’s the letter – watch this space!
Mr Steve Nicholson
Chief Executive Cottonsoft Ltd
126 Kerwyn Avenue
High Brook Business Park
23rd August 2011
Dear Mr Nicholson,
Cottonsoft Press statement regarding PEFC and the Indonesian rainforest fibre identified in your products.
I have read with interest the media statement made by Cottonsoft on August 22nd in which you claim that 'all of Cottonsoft's four retail brands have certification under PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), the world's largest forest certification programme.' This statement, if accurate, has significant implications for PEFC and I am therefore copying this letter to them, as well as a number of your customers in New Zealand.
Independent fibre testing by a pre-eminent lab in this field (Integrated Paper Services of the United States) has confirmed the presence of mixed tropical hardwoods in 2 Cottonsoft products tested this year. I attach a copy of the results with this letter.
As you are well aware, there are no PEFC forests in Indonesia. APP manufactures PEFC products by importing PEFC pulp from other countries and mixing it with fibre that is apparently from 'non controversial' plantation sources in Indonesia. PEFC Certified products such as toilet paper that are then produced often contain a percentage of this non-certified fibre. Note that in many cases this Indonesian plantation fibre is grown in areas where APP suppliers have previously cleared rainforests, raising serious questions about the non controversial origins of this plantation fibre.
In addition, the international audit organisation SGS, referenced in your press statement, has specifically and categorically confirmed that APP PEFC products should not contain fibre that originates from Indonesian rainforests. This fibre is not verified as 'non controversial' under their auditing programme. In email correspondence with Greenpeace in August 2010, SGS confirmed that 'the only input from Indonesia used by APP as PEFC non-controversial material is obtained from plantations.' Previously, in a letter to an Australian Trade Union regarding APP practices SGS stated that 'only pulp produced from acacia/eucalypt plantations legally managed by SMF [Sinar Mas Forestry - exclusive supplier to APP] and its partners which has undergone 3rd party verification programme are categorized as non controversial by APP management' . The results of the forensic testing clearly show the presence of mixed tropical hardwood - or rainforest timber, a critical issue that you simply fail to address.
These statements from SGS would appear to suggest that either your claim that ALL Cottonsoft products are PEFC certified and sourced from sustainable locations is not factually correct, or that APP is breaking the rules it is following for its PEFC certification, through allowing timber from rainforest destruction to be used in PEFC products. Could you please urgently clarify as to which of these explanations is correct or if there is another explanation?
I should additionally point out that the recently released video of the trapped Sumatran tiger on an APP concession was taken in an area that was stamped as 'non controversial' under PEFC rules. This presents further evidence, should it be needed, that PEFC rules cannot currently give assurance to retailers that your products are coming from sustainable sources in Indonesia.
You also mention that 'APP conserves rare and endangered species, is a leading supporter of the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Foundation (YPHS), and protects tigers and releases them into safe habitats - recently, it assisted in the release of a five-year-old Sumatran tiger back into the wild. What you fail to mention is that the tiger in question, Putri, had to be moved from an area where considerable tracts of rainforest had been cleared to supply APP with timber. Surely APP itself created a large part of the problem which you are now suggesting it is helping to solve.
I would also like to address the deliberately misleading statement that asserts that Greenpeace were unable to promise the information would be treated as commercially sensitive. This is clearly not the case. In an email to Cottonsoft CEO Peter Byers on Wednesday 22nd December 2010, I confirm that "Any information that is commercially sensitive should be marked accordingly in the product information sheet and it will be treated with the appropriate discretion. It will not be shared with any commercial competitors ."
In closing I would like to urge you to use your influence with the senior management at APP to encourage the company to immediately commit to an end to rainforest clearance for their pulp and paper products. It is only this sort of commitment that can begin to convince stakeholders that APP is genuinely committed to sustainability and to the conservation of species such as the Sumatran tiger.
Cc: Mr Ben Gunneberg, Secretary General. PEFC international
Cc. Mr Mark Powell, CEO The Warehouse
Cc. Mr Peter Smith, CEO of Progressive Enterprises
Cc. Mr Murray Jordan, CEO of Foodstuffs