Success: Barbie and Mattel drop deforestation!

Feature story - October 5, 2011
We all know that break ups are hard. Especially when they involve secrets – like the shameful secret that broke up Barbie and Ken back in June: she had destroyed rainforest in her toy packaging. Her manufacturer, Mattel, was using products from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a pulp and paper company notorious for destroying Indonesian rainforests, including the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger. Ken was understandably distraught.

It wasn’t pretty. But all the drama that followed: Ken’s shocking interview, a public Twitter feud between the former couple, inappropriate photos of Barbie with a chainsaw, over 500,000 emails sent by you to Mattel – all of it has a silver lining. It helped bring the continuing destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests for pulp and paper out into the open and forced action.

Mattel recognized it couldn’t allow its supply chains to include products coming from deforestation and that toy packaging shouldn’t come at the costs of rainforests and tiger habitat. That was made very clear by the strong response from people all over the world to the revelation that Barbie was wrapped up in rainforest destruction. Today Mattel has brought closure to the couple’s drama by dropping deforestation: releasing a global policy that will keep rainforest destruction out of its supply chains.

As the largest toy company in the world, their new policy sends a message to other companies that to be a responsible business you must be vigilant about keeping deforestation out of your products. As part of its new commitments, Mattel has instructed its suppliers to avoid wood fiber from controversial sources, including companies “that are known to be involved in deforestation”. Their policy also aims to increase the amount of recycled paper used in their business, as well as to boost the use of wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Now that you know Mattel and Barbie have committed to dropping deforestation – you probably have only one thing on your mind. Will Barbie and Ken get back together? We don’t want to speculate – but couldn’t help but notice that hostilities between the couple have ceased.

Here’s a look back on how the Ken and Barbie breakup drama unfolded online and offline:

As you can imagine, the public airing of Barbie’s dirty deforestation laundry was so traumatic that everyone involved probably needs some time to heal. Hopefully in time Barbie and Ken will be able to look back and appreciate that their painful breakup was a necessary trauma. It has led to Mattel taking action against deforestation, adding to the pressure from other companies - among them Nestlé, Unilever and Carrefour, who are also taking action on these issues. These companies are committing to removing deforestation from their supply chains and from their products. And that is worth some tears.

What does Mattel’s commitment mean for the rainforests and the habitat of the Sumatran tiger? It means that APP is paying a heavy price for continuing to rely on destroying rainforests for pulp and paper by losing another high profile customer. People don’t want to buy products that come from deforestation, and right now companies that want to be deforestation-free can’t use APP products. Asia Pulp and Paper has to face these realities and change. APP’s sister company, palm oil supplier Golden Agri Resources, has already shown that this change is possible by making strong commitments to stop deforestation.

This hasn’t happened yet with APP. We saw the tragic costs of how APP operates when we reported on the death of a Sumatran tiger on the border of an APP owned concession. In the last two weeks the Greenpeace tiger eye tour has been documenting continued forest destruction by APP.

Our activists have exposed APP’s persistent attempts to greenwash its image and pass itself off as a company that cares and acts responsibly towards the environment. As long as APP continues to put its efforts into marketing campaigns that cover up the truth, rather than changing its practices – we’ll continue to expose the truth. And we know you’ll be there with us. Your support is important to keeping attention on the plight of Indonesia’s rainforests - the habitat of endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger – thank you.

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Greenpeace is the only organisation doing this work on the scale that we do it.  We are also one of the only global charities that accepts no corporate or government funding in order to remain independent.  But it means we rely on people like you for every cent.

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