Toilet-paper giant to steer clear of rainforest

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013
Nathan Argent
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ
GOOD MOVE: Greenpeace's Nathan Argent says a notorious rainforest destroyer is taking a huge step forward.

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The highly endangered Sumatran tiger and orangutans in Indonesia should keep more of their jungle homes, with the makers of Cottonsoft calling an end to using rainforest timber in toilet paper.

The Indonesian owner of Cottonsoft toilet paper has announced it will cease clearing natural forest across its entire supply chain after accusations of deforestation.

Global forestry, paper and packaging giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is the owner of Cottonsoft, which makes CottonSoft and KiwiSoft toilet tissue and Tuffy hand towels in New Zealand. It also owns the Paseo toilet tissue brand sold in some supermarkets.

It came under fire in 2011 when environmental advocacy group Greenpeace had forensic testing done on CottonSoft in the United States and Germany which showed some products contained rainforest fibre. Soon after, supermarket chain Countdown cut its contract with Cottonsoft to make its Home Brand loo paper.

In March last year, Greenpeace tested logs used at APP's Indonesian factories and found the mill making raw materials supplied to Cottonsoft regularly processed the internationally protected species ramin, which grows in peat swamps where highly endangered sumatran tigers live.

Last night in Jakarta, APP announced all its suppliers had suspended natural-forest clearance while independent assessments took place to identify areas of high conservation value that would be protected through a long-term management programme.

"We are doing this for the sustainability of our business and for the benefit of society," chairman Teguh Ganda Wijaya said.

Cottonsoft chief executive Steve Nicholson said it had already made significant progress in New Zealand. "Cottonsoft products are made from plantation sources and are certified by PEFC, the world's largest forest-certification scheme."

In New Zealand, Greenpeace chief policy adviser Nathan Argent said it was a very public acknowledgement of Cottonsoft owner APP's role in deforestation.

He described the Forest Conservation Policy as a significant milestone in trying to protect what was left of Indonesia's rainforest, home to some of the world's most endangered species such as the sumatran tiger and orangutans.

"Although we're cautiously optimistic because we have heard similar announcements before, this follows months of high-level negotiation [with] APP top brass and we're confident what they're about to introduce will be a massive step forward. This is one of the world's largest and notorious rainforest destroyers," Argent said.

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"This agreement was different because of the extent of their commitment. It's not only about bringing an immediate end to their role in deforestation but by implementing the best [peat forest protection] plan, they're either reducing or avoiding any release of greenhouse-gas emissions."

Cottonsoft has not been profitable in recent years, reporting a $2.3 million loss in 2011 and a $2m loss in 2010.

The Warehouse suspended all new orders of Cottonsoft's toilet rolls after Greenpeace deforestation claims. The retailer would not comment on whether it would now consider restocking the brand.

ZERO TOLERANCE

In March 2012 APP said: "Asia Pulp & Paper group maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy for illegal wood entering the supply chain and has comprehensive chain of custody systems to ensure that only legal wood enters its pulp-mill operations.

"APP's chain of custody systems are independently audited on a periodic basis. This ensures that we receive only legal pulpwood from areas under legal licence that have passed all necessary ecological and social assessments."

- The Dominion Post

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