Ken dumps Barbie! He doesn't date girls who are into deforestation

Posted by jamie — 7 June 2011 at 5:22pm - Comments

Heard the news? Ken has dumped Barbie! It's true, and not because the plastic princess has been spotted in the company of certain premier league footballers. No, it's much more serious than that. Get this: Barbie is destroying Indonesia's forests for those pretty pink boxes she likes to wrap herself in. You can't blame Ken. As you can see in the video above, he's just seen the results of the latest Greenpeace investigation which shows how Barbie is threatening the future of endangered species and the stability of our climate. The paper used in Barbie boxes – like palm oil which we've campaigned about in the past - comes straight from the rainforests of Indonesia, home to rapidly vanishing creatures such as orang-utans, and Sumatran tigers and elephants.

Ok, maybe it isn't all Barbie's fault. Mattel, the company behind the malevolent mannequin, is the one responsible and our global investigation has uncovered the links between Mattel and our old friends, the notorious Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). Which is why activists dressed as Ken have scaled Mattel's headquarters in Los Angeles, while Greenpeace volunteers are outside the UK head office in Maidenhead.

By analysing the fibres in Barbie packaging and digging into the commercial links between various companies, we've been able to link the carbon-rich forests and peatlands of Indonesia with the packaging of toys on sale in shops around the world. The trail leads directly from Mattel to APP and its suppliers in a chain of destruction that spans the globe.

Love her or loathe her, Barbie has been part of the cultural landscape for over 50 years and she's all about aspiration – the various careers she's dabbled in, not to mention the accompanying wardrobe and accessories, are evidence of that. But is it really every young girl's dream to be responsible for clearing areas of priceless rainforest, accelerating climate change thanks to the resulting emissions and threatening endangered species?

Take the Sumatran tiger, for instance. Only 400 or so are thought to remain in the wild, and their habitat is shrinking. Vital forested areas have been earmarked by the Indonesian government for clearance to establish industrial plantations, and, despite their environmental value, they're not protected by the recent (and rather limited) moratorium on forest clearance. So APP pulpwood suppliers are still targeting and clearing some of Sumatra's most ecologically important forests, including those designated as a priority for tiger conservation.

It isn't just Mattel though. Other toy companies are involved as well, and we have evidence on Disney, Hasbro and Lego too. Some of their branded merchandise also contains the same mixed tropical hardwood fibre which is only produced on a commercial scale by two companies in Indonesia, one of which is APP.

And none of these toy companies have effective policies in place which would exclude products from companies linked to deforestation from their supply chains. After our successful campaign last year, Nestlé began work on just such a policy, joining other major names such as Unilever, Kraft, Adidas and Tesco.

APP is part of the Sinar Mas group which seems to be undergoing a schizophrenic crisis just now. On the one hand, there's APP: still committed to rampant deforestation (its clumsy PR spin machine has even admitted that). On the other, there's the palm oil division Golden Agri Resources - just a few months ago, it announced an environmental policy which, if followed through, could ensure that its palm oil operation has no deforestation footprint. The two couldn't be more different, and yet they're part of the same conglomerate.

Will this particular toy story have a happy ending? That's up to you. Email Bob Eckert, Mattel's CEO, and tell him (and Barbie) to stop destroying rainforests for their cheap toy packaging.

It might do. We don't know. But Barbie's definitely does.

I have to disagree - companies aren't going to produce products for which there is no market. A gap in the market only exists if there's profit in it.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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