HarperCollins’ recent public commitment to no longer source paper connected to endangered rainforests signifies a fundamental, sector-wide shift in the US publishing industry. This move by HarperCollins is on the heels of a major announcement in October by Disney, which released a comprehensive global paper policy covering the company’s vast array of businesses and licensees.
Over the last months, the top ten publishers in the country, including Hachette Book Group, Pearson, and Simon & Schuster, agreed to adopt commitments to stop buying paper connected to the loss of Indonesian rainforests.
Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) together produce upwards of 80 percent of Indonesia’s pulp and paper, and are the main source of both MTH and acacia pulp found in the global marketplace. Both companies are responsible for widespread deforestation and displacement of forest communities from their land. Habitat destruction by these companies is a leading threat to the survival of the Sumatran tiger, of which scientists estimate only a few hundred remain.
Just over two years ago, independent fiber tests revealed paper linked to Indonesian rainforest destruction in books sold by nearly all top American publishers. In December of 2012, independent forensic fiber tests, commissioned by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), revealed significant quantities of Mixed Tropical Hardwood (MTH) and acacia fiber in the paper of some of HarperCollins’ best selling books. Following the release of these results, HarperCollins has become the latest top publisher to update its paper policy, stating that it “prohibits sourcing from Indonesian tropical rainforests, old growth and/or endangered forests for [its] products, and has instituted a program of random fiber testing of books to ensure [its] product is free of tropical hardwood fiber.”
“All of the top ten US publishers in the country now recognize that customers will not accept books with paper that comes from the destruction of endangered rainforests. This is a seismic shift in an industry that just two years ago was rife with controversial paper,” said Robin Averbeck, a Forest Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, which has been working with publishers on this shift. “US publishers are sending a loud and clear message to forest destroying paper companies like Asia Pulp and Paper and APRIL that consumers are demanding rainforest safe paper.”
Rainforest Action Network first alerted the US publishing industry to problems in its paper supply chains in May of 2010 with a report titled Turning the Page on Rainforest Destruction: Children’s books and the future of Indonesia’s rainforests.
“While the real impact of HarperCollins’ commitments will be determined by their implementation, Rainforest Action Network is encouraged that the company has joined its publishing peers by prohibiting the use of paper sourced from Indonesia’s endangered rainforests.”
Indonesia is home to some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world but it also has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation. The Indonesian government estimates that more than a million hectares of rainforests are being cleared every year. Logging for pulp, along with the expansion of palm oil plantations, is a leading driver of this destruction. Indonesia is now listed as the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, after the US and China. An estimated eighty per cent of its emissions come from the conversion of peatlands and other natural forests.