After protests from Greenpeace activists, Mattel has announced it will address concerns with the paper used for the packaging of its products. Mattel will also require packaging suppliers to “commit to sustainable forestry management practices.”
Mattel has been acquiring paper for packaging from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a firm in Singapore. APP has been accused of contributing to deforestation in Indonesia. According to Greenpeace’s tests on three packages of Barbie dolls, up to 23 percent of the packaging was composed of materials from a variety of tropical hardwoods trees. This led Mattel to discontinue the use of paper from APP. Mattel also plans to launch their own investigation on the allegations against APP of contributing to deforestation.
APP, however, claims Greenpeace’s accusations are false and completely welcomes Mattel’s investigation. Says Ian Lifshitz, sustainability manager for APP’s operations in America, “We are confident Mattel’s investigation will show that our packaging materials are more than 95 percent recycled paper sourced from around the world.”
APP has been the target of similar allegations in the past. In May, the Rainforest Action Network campaigned against the Walt Disney Co. for using paper from APP to make children’s books. In the campaign, activists, including some dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, protested outside the Walt Disney Co. headquarters in Burbank.
Mattel has engaged in talks with Greenpeace even before the protests about finding sustainable sources for materials used for packaging. As a result, Mattel is dismayed by Greenpeace’s actions and these protests have somewhat soured relations between the two.
Greenpeace’s Rolf Skar, who tested the three Barbie packages, says toy companies such as Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, and Disney, should follow the example of many food and office supply companies and completely stop buying from APP and other firms that allegedly cut down and use tropical hardwood trees. Says Skar of APP, “one of the worst paper suppliers in Indonesia, Asia Pulp and Paper, is continuing to destroy tiger habitat and important forest lands there.”
Two Greenpeace activists dressed up as Ken scaled the Mattel headquarters building in El Segundo, California and hung a giant banner saying “Barbie, it’s over. I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.” Several hours later, these two men were arrested. A woman dressed up as Barbie was able to drive a bobcat a few hundred feet before being stopped by an El Segundo police officer. A total of ten activists were arrested.
The protests have reached to other countries, as well. In a mall in Tel-Aviv, life-sized Barbie dolls were propped with pink chainsaws and signs linking Mattel to deforestation. Some activists even acted out a skit: activists dressed up as Barbie and Ken attacked an activist dressed up as an orangutan with weapons made out of cardboard, referring to the harm deforestation causes to the animals that live there.
In the UK, a similar banner to the one used in El Segundo was hung in Piccadilly Circus. Says Greenpeace forests campaigner Ian Duff, “The many thousands of people who come to Piccadilly Circus every day can’t miss our 100 square meter message highlighting Barbie’s role in rainforest destruction. And Mattel, who make Barbie, can’t ignore this either. Barbie is trashing rainforests and pushing critically-endangered wildlife, like tigers, towards extinction. Mattel must stop buying packaging from APP, a notorious rainforest destroyer which has been exposed many times for wrecking Indonesia’s rainforests to make throw-away packaging.”
Greenpeace’s campaign against Mattel has also spread to social media outlets. Mattel’s Facebook page for Barbie was flooded with comments which prompted Mattel to shut down the page. Mattel also received thousands of emails from the public.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/huldero/2669109168/