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Cottonsoft smokescreen fools nobody

Cottonsoft smokescreen fools nobody as Foodstuffs launches investigation

Blogpost by Nathan Argent - September 2, 2011 at 14:49

It's been ten days since we first revealed that Cottonsoft toilet paper was linked to deforestation Indonesia and it's been busy ever since.

The case against Cottonsoft is resounding, but instead of doing the right thing they've just tried to muddy the waters and hide behind mistruths. But we're not surprised. This is how Asia Pulp and Paper, and subsidiaries such as Cottonsoft, react when they get exposed. Public relations spending and greenwash have become an integral part of their business model, creating a multi-million dollar smokescreen whilst they continue to raze the natural forests of Indonesia to the ground.

For example, claiming that they are bastions of conservation and tiger protection are like me suggesting that I'm a challenge to Richie McCaw's captaincy of the All Blacks.

Cottonsoft have also tried to muddy the waters by claiming that jobs are at risk as a result of us exposing their links to deforestation. This is a low blow even by their standards. It is not in any way Greenpeace's intention to threaten anyone's job security. No business model should be based on the supplying of products that have been linked to environmental destruction. Cottonsoft have a responsibility to their staff and customers to ensure that they embed sustainability at the heart of their business. Other New Zealand based companies are able to provide toilet paper that doesn't come from trashed rainforests, so why is it that Cottonsoft are unable to?

And for the myriad of counter claims declaring their innocence, the elephant in the room remains the fact they can't explain why one of the world's leading labs for forensic testing has found rainforest timber in Cottonsoft products.

It's worth reminding ourselves that this situation is not exclusive to New Zealand. Over the years, Greenpeace has documented APP's continued links to the destruction of tiger habitat to feeds its paper mills, most recently in our reports 'Pulping the Planet' and 'Toying with Extinction'. And these investigations have led many companies to see through the smokescreen and act to cut ties with them until they commit to ending their role in rainforest clearance.

We asked people to send a message to the three major NZ retailers asking them to drop Cottonsoft and after thousands of emails from concerned kiwis we got fast results.

Thanks to pressure from you The Warehouse quickly announced it would suspend Cottonsoft orders pending an investigation and then this week, Foodstuffs - owners of New World and Pak n Save - has also announced that they too are taking the findings of our investigation seriously and have ordered an independent audit of Cottonsoft's supply chain. And they've brought in the Government backed Environmental Choice eco-labelling outfit to undertake investigation.

This is a welcome move and also means that all eyes are now on Environmental Choice. Their reputation and credibility could rise or fall on how well they conduct this investigation.

To get to the bottom of the problem, it will be imperative that a complete audit of the Cottonsoft supply chain is undertaken - along with an investigation on the ground in Indonesia - to independently assess APP's operations. A desktop exercise won't cut the mustard, as simply verifying claims with Cottonsoft's certifying body - PEFC - will just get them back to square one. That would be like asking a student to mark their own homework.

But this aside, the concern we have is that this audit could take many months or even years to complete, which means that in the interim Cottonsoft products containing rainforest timber could continue to be sold in Foodstuffs stores. This simply isn't good enough.

And what of Progressives I hear you say? Well indeed. So far notable only for their silence it seems that they've clamped their hands firmly over their ears hoping it will all go away. Well it won't. They have a responsibility to their customers to take their concerns seriously and ensure that the products they sell come from responsibly managed sources - their failure to respond smacks of complacency. The evidence against Cottonsoft is compelling and the notoriety of APP as a rainforest destroyer should be enough for them to follow the responsible actions taken by the other retailers.

So keep up the pressure and let the supermarkets know that you don't want them to be supporting deforestation and ensure that you only buy loo roll that's come from responsibly managed sources.


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