Disney's radical new paper policy to have major impact

Back in 2010, the activist group Rainforest Action Network sent a bunch of children’s books to a lab for analysis. The group learned that the paper in most books -- including those from The Walt Disney Co., which is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines, producing 50 million books and 30 million magazines a year -- contained tropical hardwood pulp, likely from Indonesia. Many kids books are made in China, and China gets much of its paper from Indonesia, where rainforests are threatened by logging, mining and agriculture.

Not long after, RAN launched a campaign against Disney, which included protests at the company’s corporate headquarters in Burbank. The campaign ended today with a big victory, in the form of a Disney paper buying policy that RAN’s executive director, Rebecca Tarbotton, describes as second to none.

“We’ve seen a tremendous commitment from Disney,” she told me, by phone, from RAN’s offices in San Francisco.

Here’s Disney’s announcement and here is a summary of the policy. It’s complicated, and far-reaching, and it will be rolled out in two phases -- with the first covering paper sourced directly by Disney or for use in Disney-branded products and packaging, and the second addressing paper sourced by  independent licensees.

Among the key principles: Disney is promising to reduce its overall paper use. It will increase its use of recycled paper and paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. It will avoid paper that comes from “High Conservation Value Forests” as well as “High Carbon Value Forests,” recognizing the importance of forests not only to protect biodiversity but to absorb CO2 from the air.

Importantly, the company specifically highlights Indonesia as a hotspot, and says Disney has “taken and will take action to eliminate paper fiber from unwanted sources in this region.”

Photo of Mickey in sorcerer's hat provided by Paul Smith/Feature Flash via Shutterstock

Next page: What the new policy means