Barbie’s fairytale interrupted by the roar of a thousand chainsaws
by Phil Radford
June 7, 2011
A long time ago, in a land far, far away, Greenpeace sent Mattel a letter. Our researchers had discovered Barbie’s not so magical secret: her packaging is linked to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. For some reason, it took America’s biggest toy company two months to send any kind of substantial reply. Perhaps they were busy perfecting Ken’s summer wardrobe.
When it eventually arrived at our San Francisco office we tore it open with interest. “As the leading innovator in the toy industry,” the letter opens breathlessly, “Mattel approaches business with a forward-looking commitment to the world in which we live and play”. Good so far. Everybody likes a forward-looking commitment. So, what about their packaging? “For other printed materials, we generally work with paper suppliers and the printers that can make recommendations on latest FSCapproved paper stocks that meet the needs of our specific project.”
Try not to zone out here. They’ve put in a bunch of jargon to make you fall asleep but it’s important to figure out what this means. Mattel generally works with suppliers that can make recommendations on FSC paper stocks. Hmm. Think of it another way: we all generally drink beers from breweries that make recommendations on responsible drinking. Sadly, alcoholism is still a fact of life. Mattel’s policy is so weak that even Ken could punch a hole in it.
Our forensic testing and global research show how Mattel products are using mixed tropical hardwood from Asia Pulp and Paper, a company that is ripping down the paradise forests of Indonesia so fast that soon there won’t be anything left to protect. These vast natural treasures are being destroyed in front of our eyes. Sumatran tigers, elephants and orangutans are being pushed to the brink of extinction because Mattel simply isn’t interested in the origins of Barbie’s pink box.
Right now, ‘the world in which we live and play’ is in trouble. For companies like Mattel, cute phrases aren’t enough. They need strict rules to prevent rainforest destruction from contaminating their toys.
Standing the wings of this drama are the other big players in the sector: Disney, Hasbro and Lego. Rip open the glossy box and you’ll find there are a lot of dirty secrets hiding in some of America’s best loved brands. While other companies like Nestle and Kraft have got a grip on their supply chains, the toy industry is still living in fantasy land, assuming that parents and children won’t care if they’re throwing tiger habitat into the trashcan on Christmas morning.
We need to change that.
Log on to www.greenpeace.org/usa/the-breakup and tell Mattel’s executives to get their heads out of the sandbox.