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Mattel breaks up with Asia Pulp and Paper after Greenpeace's Barbie-based campaign [UPDATE]

Four months after activists linked its toy packaging to deforestation, El Segundo based Mattel corporation has developed sustainable sourcing principles for its packaging. The move comes after the environmental group Greenpeace published evidence linking boxes found around Barbie dolls to old-growth rainforest in Indonesia, the world's third-largest forest of that type. "We know that there are growing concerns about deforestation, and we recognize that Mattel can play a role in this challenge," Kathleen Shaver, Mattel's director of corporate responsibility says, in a produced video on the toy maker's website. The company will first focus on using post-consumer recycled fiberboard, according to a new statement on its website. Mattel says it will ensure that wood fiber for its packaging is harvested within the bounds of international, national and local law. The company also pledged to seek third-party certification for its paper products, to set measurable goals for progress, and to report regularly on what it accomplishes. In June, four protesters dressed as Ken dolls scaled headquarters to unfurl a banner while an activist Barbie drove a pink truck down the street toward the building.

The stunt coincided with the launch of a global social media campaign; on the campaign's website, Greenpeace offered evidence linking toy companies to rainforest consumption in Indonesia widely considered illegal under a patchwork of laws.

Several days later, Mattel said it would begin developing rules to improve its sustainability. Mattel's status as the world's largest toy company makes the move significant, especially to Greenpeace, which also targeted other toy companies. In July, the Danish company LEGO announced its own efforts to strengthen accountability. Greenpeace targeted the toy sector to call attention to the practices of Asia Pulp and Paper, a fiber and paper supplier based in Indonesia. Its Indonesian campaign manager for forests, Bustar Maitar, hailed Mattel's announcement. “This is more evidence for Asia Pulp and Paper that rainforest destruction is bad for business," he said in a release. Rapid-turnover palm oil plantations have helped drive the clearing of rainforest in Indonesia over the past half century. So have pulping operations like those of Asia Pulp and Paper. Mattel didn't specify what type of forestry certification it will seek. Asia Pulp and Paper's Ian Lifshitz said APP supports Mattel's efforts to seek certification, but criticized the Forest Stewardship Council. FSC is an independent nonprofit organization often allied with Greenpeace whose seal of approval appears on Xerox paper and Whole Foods paper grocery sacks. "We strongly urge companies to not limit their procurement policies to one standard, in this case FSC, which discriminates against products from Indonesia and other developing markets," Lifshitz said. "APP supports policies that protect both the environment and the vital income which developing countries receive from the pulp & paper industries." As part of its efforts toward reducing its contribution to global warming, California has entered into sub-national agreements with Indonesian states in an effort to promote the use of rainforest for capturing carbon and slowing climate change. (UPDATED, 11:25 AM, to include new comments from Asia Pulp & Paper.)