Southern California environment news and trends

Pressure on Asia Pulp & Paper yielding corporate responsibility, new strategies on rainforest policy [UPDATED]

[author's note: see comments for an apparent dispute between Nat Geo & GP over what, if anything, they've discussed. Following...]

It's not spring yet, but corporate responsibility, and maybe some new savvy about rainforest politics, has been blooming all over.

National Geographic makes books in addition to magazines; they're the latest paper consumer to respond to a years-long joint campaign by several environmental groups to pressure retailers and other companies to end their paper-buying relationship with the Asia Pulp and Paper group of companies. [UPDATE: This may be wrong. See below for my explanation.] The World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace have been increasing the profile of their separate-but-related pushes in the last six months or so. WWF released a report entitled Don't Flush Tiger Forests: Toilet Paper, U.S. Supermarkets and the Destruction of Indonesia’s Last Tiger Habitat.

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Corporate social responsibility; or, Mattel finally speaks to KPCC about deforestation, APP, Greenpeace stunt

Greenpeace's Barbie Protest

Grant Slater/KPCC

Sometimes people do ask corporations to be responsible citizens. Sometimes corporations do. Outside Mattel HQ, El Segundo, CA.

I was just listening through the tape from last Friday’s Grammy corporate sustainability event one more time. Not to start a fight with myself, but after I raised questions about the responsibility we ask from corporations, I found an example where people did just that. 

You may remember that last spring Greenpeace campaigned to get Mattel to source its packaging more responsibly: that is, they wanted Mattel to stop using pulp from Asia Pulp & Paper and its associates. (See here for more from last October, when Mattel did develop sustainability rules.)

Well, when I realized Mattel was at this event, I asked Jennifer Miller DuBuisson, the company’s associate manager of global sustainability, whether the Greenpeace campaign took them by surprise. “I mean, it definitely shows where social media is today. A pretty amazing campaign,” DuBuisson said gamely, quipping about the quality of the color scheme in the protest-stunt props. DuBuisson emphasized that Mattel did not approve of the action’s potential for harm to Greenpeace protesters and Mattel employees.   

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What is the sound of social change? The Grammy Awards ask, but offer no answer

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver poses with the

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Apparently pop singers like Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (here with his 2 Grammys) are influential. Photo backstage at the 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, February 12, 2012.

For the second year in a row, the Recording Academy sponsored a talk about ways the entertainment business responds to social change. It was last Friday; I went to a panel called "The Sound of Social Change."

A press release said El Segundo-based Mattel, fast food giant Yum! Brands, Hyundai Motors, and the public relations firm Weber Shandwick were chosen to kick around energy use, water conservation, food waste and recycling concerns because they’re leaders in their fields. (Representatives of those businesses talked plenty about following consumers in the marketplace, too.)

I usually find these kind of events a colossal waste of time. Corporate sustainability types, given free rein, tend to prefer platitudes and staying on message to talking substantively about what they do and why they do it. But this one gave me food for thought. 

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