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Supermarket challenges toilet paper maker to disprove deforestation allegations

Wednesday 18 January 2012
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A major New Zealand supermarket chain has asked Cottonsoft to prove its environmental credentials after testing by WWF and Greenpeace revealed the toilet paper maker was using mixed tropical hardwoods sourced from Indonesia's rainforests in its tissue. reports The Dominion Post.

On Wednesday Foodstuffs demanded that Cottonsoft undertake an independent audit of its environmental impact.

"As an ethical and environmentally concerned business, we believe it is imperative that Cottonsoft demonstrate its products adhere to accepted standards of environmental performance," said Foodstuffs New Zealand Managing Director Steve Anderson in a statement. "At our request, Cottonsoft has agreed to demonstrate this by obtaining Environmental Choice certification for all toilet tissue products it supplies to our companies."

The Environmental Choice certification "is designed to assess a product's environmental impact throughout the supply chain," according to Foodstuffs, which says it believes the standard "is a robust, scientifically credible and internationally accepted certification process which gives a product strong environmental credentials."

"Given that Cottonsoft have strenuously denied the claims made by Greenpeace, we believe they should be given the opportunity to prove their credentials stand up under independent scrutiny," added Anderson.

Foodstuffs's move comes just days after The Warehouse, another New Zealand supermarket, suspended sales of Cottonsoft products following revelations about its fiber sourcing.

Cottonsoft is owned by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a China-based paper products brand that sources much of its wood-pulp from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. APP has long been criticized by environmental groups for destroying rainforests and peatlands that store vast amounts of carbon and are a refuge for several critically endangered species, including the Sumatran Tiger.

APP has responded to criticism with an extensive marketing campaign that has included advertisements that attempt to portray the logger as a conservation group as well as the use of questionable PR tactics, including issuing misleading press statements, hiring single-issue paid consultants to write reports refuting environmental complaints and praising APP, and "astroturfing" or creating messaging intended to look as if it is coming from the public or a grassroots movement. APP's Australian affiliate Solaris was scandalized two weeks ago when it was caught red-handed in the midst of an astroturfing effort. Solaris has since apologized.

In New Zealand, Cottonsoft has responded to the criticism by attacking the credibility of IPS Global, the lab that tested the fiber. Cottonsoft also claimed the green campaign could cost 130 jobs in New Zealand, but was later caught in a lie when pressed on the circumstances around Greenpeace's initial request to test Cottonsoft products.

"It’s another weak attempt to play the victim which masks the fact that they failed to provide any evidence that their toilet paper was coming from responsible sources," wrote Greenpeace New Zealand's Nathan Argent on the Greenpeace blog of Cottonsoft's inaccurate claim.

Greenpeace and WWF are calling for a boycott of all Cottonsoft products until the company stops sourcing its fiber through destruction of Indonesia's rainforests.

"We’re asking Cottonsoft to use their influence with APP to immediately commit to an end to rainforest clearance for their pulp and paper products," wrote Argent. "It is only this sort of commitment that can begin to convince customers and supermarkets that APP is genuinely committed to sustainability."

This article was published by Mongabay; tropical rainforest conservation and environmental science news.

This story has been published under a Creative Commons license. You are free to re-publish this article provided the original authors and publishers are attributed correctly. The article may not be used for any commercial gains. To view the full legal license, click the banner below.

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