WWF Flushes Out Toilet Paper Giant to Save Sumatran Tigers

World Wildlife Fund scores win against wiping out tiger habitat.

A Sumatran tiger cub gives a leery eye to a hidden camera while walking through a corridor that the WWF says is in the path of APP's clear-cutting ambitions. (Photo: WWF-Indonesia)

Feb 17, 2012
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

The survival of the Sumatran tiger and Indonesian elephants may hinge on what brand of toilet paper end consumers in the United States use. According to the World Wildlife Fund, tissue retail brands originating from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) are causing destruction of Indonesian tiger habitat. APP, a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group, is the largest pulp and paper company in Indonesia.

Paseo and Livi are the two bathroom names that the WWF urges U.S. consumers to drop.

Oasis Brands, the distributor of Paseo, claimed in a letter to the U.S. grocery industry that, “Continuous, rigorous auditing has proven APP products are made from sustainable sources.”

Linda Kramme, manager of WWF’s Global Forest Trade Network, dismisses the Oasis defense of APP. Kramme told msnbc.com: “APP’s forest management operations in Indonesia are not certified as sustainable by any credible third party.”

APP and its affiliates have pulped more than 5 million acres of natural forests in Sumatra (almost 4 million football fields). It plans to clear more.

A WWF report released February 8 insists that APP, despite years of promises to improve its practices, continues to destroy tropical forests in general, and habitat of endangered tigers in particular.

TakePart went directly to WWF forest expert Linda Kramme for the dossier on APP—and to find out if retailers were more swayed by Oasis’s denial or by the WWF’s evidence.

TakePart: How have retailers reacted to the WWF tiger habitat report?

Linda Kramme: We’ve had a lot of feedback from the retailers since we released the report. In fact, 13 out of the 20 companies listed in “Don’t Flush Tigers Forests” have confirmed that they are no longer buying Paseo, or committed to not use APP paper in their private-label tissue products. [A complete, updated list of the retailers is here.]

TakePart: How do these assurances of cooperation stack up with past WWF campaigns?

Linda Kramme: It’s actually unusual for us to do a campaign aimed at a specific consumer product and company. WWF’s approach is to work collaboratively with industry and businesses on ways they can implement more sustainable practices. But attempts since 2001 to engage with APP to change its practice of clearing tropical forests and tiger habitat in Indonesia were unsuccessful. APP failed to implement changes. We’re now at the 11th hour to save Sumatra’s forests and wildlife, which prompted us to launch this campaign to engage consumer purchasing power to push APP to stop clearing rain forests.

TakePart: How did WWF source its Sumatra report? 

Linda Kramme: For our data on grocery chains, our research was based on Nielsen retail data from 2011. Our information about APP’s forest and wildlife impact stems from years of field investigations and satellite images that tell a devastating story.

TakePart: What triggered the investigation?

Linda Kramme: WWF’s ongoing work to protect Sumatra’s wildlife and globally important forests includes working closely on improving the pulp and paper sector’s environmental stewardship, where APP is a major player. 

Indonesian rainforests are home to some of the greatest natural diversity on Earth, including elephants, orangutans and the last remaining Sumatran tigers. 

APP is responsible for more deforestation in Sumatra than any other company. APP and its affiliates are estimated to have pulped more than 5 million acres of natural forests in Sumatra (an area roughly the size of almost 4 million football fields). It plans to clear more, despite numerous commitments to remove natural forest timber from its supply chain. 

In Riau Province, where APP operates one of the world’s largest paper mills, the Sumatran tiger population has declined by 70 percent since 1982. The Sumatran elephant population has declined from more than 1,300 to less than 200. APP is now expanding into rainforests elsewhere in Indonesia, in Borneo and West Papua. 

This campaign comes after WWF engaged APP in 2001 to help the company achieve long-term sustainability without harming the environment or local communities. In 2004, WWF cut off all ties with APP after the company showed no advancement on its promises or efforts to tackle the problems. We tried again in 2006, but found no change in the company’s willingness to improve its forestry practices. 

After trying to engage with APP for years, we’ve come to the conclusion that APP is not a good steward of the environment. That’s what’s led us to launch this campaign. APP needs to stop clearing natural forest if it wants to be seen as a responsible pulp and paper company.

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