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HarperCollins Accused of Pulping Rainforests

Rainforest Action Network has launched a campaign urging HarperCollins to end the use of fiber from controversial sources after it said that independent forensic tests found significant quantities of pulp from Indonesian rainforests in several of the publishing company’s books.

Mixed tropical hardwood and high-risk acacia fiber were found in HarperCollins’ bestselling children’s book “Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas,” RAN said. Acacia was also found in HarperCollins titles including “Splat the Cat: The Perfect Present for Mom and Dad” and “Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past,” the environmental group said.

But HarperCollins spokeswoman Erin Crum said the company eliminated the use of Indonesian fiber in February. Any books printed after that date should be compliant, she said.

HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., remains the sole laggard among major US publishers that have refused to make a firm commitment to disallow the use of fiber from rainforests, said RAN. The environmental group said that HarperCollins’ UK division has a more robust policy on sourcing fiber.

Crum strongly disputes RAN’s claims, noting the US company sources paper from the same third-party certified manufacturers and vendors as other major publishers. HarperCollins doesn’t source fiber from Asia Pulp and Paper and Asia Pacific Resources International, two controversial paper giants that RAN has pressured other publishing companies not to use.

The company also plans to institute its own fiber testing, although no timeline has been set, Crum said. HarperCollins has asked RAN to share the results of its testing, so the company can address any anomalies in its supply chain, and the environmental group has so far refused, Crum added.

The publisher is just the latest in a long line of publishing companies to come under fire from RAN. In October, Disney announced it would eliminate paper connected to the destruction of endangered forests and animals from its operations and licensees, while maximizing recycled content and fiber sourced from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forestry operations. The company says its policy is the culmination of two years of conversations between executives and RAN.

Disney is the ninth major US publisher to have worked with RAN to announce rainforest commitments, after Scholastic, Hachette, Pearson/Penguin, Candlewick Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Random House and Simon & Schuster.

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3 thoughts on “HarperCollins Accused of Pulping Rainforests

  1. According to RAN’s own site, the fibre testing of one book showed traces of acacia and MTH. Acacia is quick growing and is used in plantations, which are part of most countries’ forestry sectors’ sustainability strategies. I would have thought that was something to be pleased about! Also, MTH will appear in recycled paper. Also, such tests cannot show the country of origin. The book in question was published in 2009! A lot has changed since then.

  2. It’s suspect that RAN won’t share their findings.? If you’re going to make such a PR scandalous claim, why not show proof of findings? Not that I don’t believe them, but how else is HC to correct the problem in their supply chain without making investments that aren’t necessary?

  3. RAN has gone to great lengths to initiate a constructive dialogue with HarperCollins on its paper sourcing, beginning March 31, 2010. In the interest of complete transparency and clarity, RAN has compiled and made public a comprehensive, chronological record of our written communications with HarperCollins: http://understory.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/HC-comms.pdf

    RAN also communicated very clearly and directly to HarperCollins on the day we released the tests, that “RAN would be happy to share our test results with HarperCollins staff members who are responsible for and empowered to make changes to HarperCollins’ paper policy, Indonesia commitments, and due diligence procedures based on our findings.” We received no further communication or willingness to engage in dialog from HarperCollins after sending this message.

    This is the second time HarperCollins has claimed it has stopped sourcing from APP and APRIL. In a correspondence between RAN and HarperCollins in August 2011, the company told us it never worked with APRIL and made the decision to stop working with APP in the fall of 2010. RAN responded with follow-up questions that would allow us to verify HarperCollins’ commitments using the same criteria used with other publishers. HarperCollins did not respond to our questions and had remained, until this week, unwilling to make this “commitment” public.

    While we are encouraged by HarperCollins’ latest public statement, it still lacks the teeth of verification and transparency that a truly robust policy requires to credibly ensure controversial fiber is no longer entering its supply chains. Our recently released tests demonstrate that HarperCollins’ current filters are clearly inadequate to protect them from the risk of publishing books connected to rainforest destruction.

    RAN remains open and eager to speak with representatives of HarperCollins to develop a paper policy that can shield the company from exposing itself to further risk of importing paper tied to rainforest destruction in its supply chains. Many other publishers have made their values clear through comprehensive paper policies that minimize paper use, maximize environmentally superior papers like recycled and FSC-certified, and eliminate controversial sources.

    See our full correspondence at http://ran.org/setting-record-straight-rainforest-action-network-responds-misleading-statements-harpercollins-and

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