Responding to pressure from Greenpeace this week, toy maker Mattel Inc. said it would direct its suppliers to stop buying wood products from Asia Pulp & Paper, a Singapore company that has clear-cut vast swaths of Indonesia's rain forest.
As the environmental group's global campaign against Mattel gained traction, the El Segundo company said on its Facebook page: "Mattel does not support deforestation nor does it contract directly with Sinar Mas/APP. We purchase packaging materials from a variety of suppliers and it is not the normal course of business to dictate where suppliers source materials."
Even so, the company announced a new initiative to contain any damage from Greenpeace's assault on its popular Barbie and Ken doll brands.
"We have directed our packaging suppliers to stop sourcing pulp from Sinar Mas/APP as we investigate the deforestation allegations," Mattel said. "Additionally, we have asked our packaging suppliers to clarify how they are addressing the broader issue in their own supply chains."
Mattel issued its statement late Wednesday, but Greenpeace rejected the company's olive branch.
"It's good that Mattel has realized it has a major deforestation problem, but it's still missing a comprehensive policy to deal with this issue," said Rolf Skar, the group's senior forest campaigner. "The world's biggest toy company seems to be saying it isn't to blame for the actions of its suppliers."
Skar said Mattel should remove APP and Sinar Mas from its supply chain and give a clear deadline for cutting off the supplier.
"The company should also make a public commitment to remove deforestation from all its products so this can't happen again," he said.
APP is a subsidiary of Sinar Mas a conglomerate of more than 100 companies controlled by the Indonesian-Chinese family of billionaire Eka Tjipta Widjaja.
Greenpeace, one of the world's biggest environmental groups, launched its broad campaign against Mattel on Tuesday, hanging massive banners at the company's California headquarters and in London's Piccadilly Circus. It posted spoof videos in 18 languages on YouTube in which an animated Ken doll watches Barbie slaughtering tigers and orangutans, as a narrator asks, "Did you ever think of Barbie as a serial killer?"
As of Thursday, the videos had garnered more than 510,000 views. On Tuesday, as the protest at its headquarters was underway, Mattel cut off all commenting on Barbie's Facebook page but allowed critics to post on its corporate Facebook page.
APP, meantime, supported Mattel's actions.
"We very much applaud Mattel for not succumbing to pressure from environmental groups like Greenpeace, but instead choosing to conduct their own investigation into these baseless allegations," said Ian Lifshitz, sustainability manager for APP's American operations. "We are confident Mattel's investigation will show that our packaging materials are more than 95% recycled paper sourced from around the world."
Indonesia's rain forest, the third-largest in the world after the Amazon and the Congo, is home to orangutans, tigers, elephants, clouded leopards and scores of other endangered plants and animals. In the last half-century, about 40% of the country's forests have been cleared, mainly for palm oil plantations and pulp and paper operations.
Tropical deforestation is known to be a major contributor to climate change. A vast amount of carbon is stored in rain forest trunks, leaves and soil, and it is released into the atmosphere when the forest is cleared or burned. Deforestation has made Indonesia the world's third-largest source of man-made greenhouse gases, after the U.S. and China.
The Indonesian government last month announced a partial two-year moratorium on clearing forest, but environmentalists say it will allow large new areas to be cleared.