When it comes to the bottom line, can we always trust companies that say they are doing good for the planet? In a world with plenty of less-than-responsible companies, it can be hard to swallow. But when it was revealed last year that Japanese paper companies Nippon and Oji had misled customers for years about the recycled content of their paper products - and were actually purchasing woodchips sourced from old-growth forests in Tasmania - it was expected that the companies would do something about it.
Committees were set up, investigations initiated and head honchos honourably resigned. But despite the fallout, a recent report by two Australian conservation groups presents "irrefutable evidence" that the companies are still the yearly recipients of at least 268,000 green tons of woodchipped Tasmanian old-growth forests - despite their claims to the contrary.Sobering highlights from 'Oldgrowth for Export' report by groups The Wilderness Society and Still Wild, Still Threatened include:
- Approximately 78% of the original extent of tall-eucalypt forests have already been cleared or are available for logging
- 61 000 hectares of tall-eucalypt RFA old growth are currently unprotected from logging
- The dominant product from logging of Tasmania's public native forests is pulpwood (86%), with less than 5% becoming solid wood products
- The vast majority of pulpwood from Tasmanian native forests — and an even higher proportion of pulpwood sourced from publicly-owned RFA old growth forests — are exported by Gunns Ltd as woodchips
- A significant proportion (at the absolute lowest, 20%) of woodchips from mature and old growth forests are exported to Japan
Misrepresentation for cheap
The findings implicate not only the major Tasmanian logging company Gunns Ltd., but also point to the involvement of companies such as Nippon and Oji (among others) in the destruction of the one of the last unique habitats of the world.
Over 85 percent of these felled trees end up as woodchips for export, mainly to Japan, at the price of a measly AUS$10 per ton.
"Whilst the Japanese paper companies were misleading people about using recycled paper in their products they were actually buying large amounts of old growth woodchips from Tasmania," explains Paul Oosting, pulp mill campaign manager for The Wilderness Society (Tasmania).
"We know that environmentally-conscious consumers in Japan will not want to source paper products that are made from the destruction of irreplaceable forests in Tasmania," states Oosting.
"We hope that this exposure and a backlash from Japanese consumers will help convince Nippon and Oji to cease buying woodchips from old growth and high-conservation-value forests in Tasmania and take a more environmentally responsible path into the future."
The power of consumer activism
Though this would have seemed like wishful thinking some years ago, we now know that consumer education & action can make a huge difference in pushing for greater corporate responsibility. With exposure, compounded with scandal and a international call for accountability, companies like Gunns, Nippon and Oji will have no choice but to sit up and take notice.
The Wilderness Society (PDF report) via Mongobay
More on Japanese Paper Companies & Tasmania
Campaigns Are Helping To Save Tasmania's Forests
Protest Structures to Save Styx Forest by Andrew Maynard
Mitsubishi Stops Using Wood From Old-Growth Forests
Can Conspicuous Consumption Be Good for the Planet?
Daniel Akst on Conspicuous Green Consumption