* RAN urges HarperCollins avoid Asia Pulp & Paper Co
* Conservationists says publisher lags peers like Disney
* HarperCollins requests RAN tests results
* Indonesia under pressure to reduce deforestation
By Michael Taylor
JAKARTA, Dec 14 (Reuters) - HarperCollins, a division of News Corp, has been accused by a conservation group of using materials sourced from Indonesia’s endangered rainforests.
Independent forensic fiber tests commissioned by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), showed that some of HarperCollins’ children’s books were printed with rainforest fiber.
Indonesia has some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests and is home to endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger.
“No child or parent should become an unwitting participant in rainforest destruction this holiday season,” said Robin Averbeck, a forest campaigner at RAN.
Averbeck called on HarperCollins not to do business with Indonesian paper firms Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) and Asia Pulp and Paper Co Ltd (APP). APP has been accused by other green groups of destroying rainforests.
A spokesman for HarperCollins said the company shares the goals of environmentally sustainable fiber use and the company has policies to support these goals.
The U.S. publisher had requested information from RAN, including results of the tests, which the green group has refused to share, said Erin Crum, vice president of corporate communications at HarperCollins. Crum said HarperCollins has worked with its printers and mills to eliminate the use of Indonesian fiber from books and that all books manufactured after February 2012 were compliant.
“We call on RAN to share its data and findings with us so we can address any anomalies in our supply chain if they exist and we are instituting a testing regime with an independent lab to ensure our that our books are meeting our policy goals,” Crum said.
Officials at APP declined to comment. Officials at APRIL did not respond to multiple telephone calls and emails from Reuters seeking comment.
APP and APRIL “are indeed the main culprits here and it’s good to be clear about that, but as they have not proven very responsive to direct pressure, we are forced to go after their customers to get them to take rainforest destruction seriously and HarperCollins is the sole major U.S. publisher remaining who has not made a firm commitment to stop doing business with them,” RAN spokesman Laurel Sutherlin said.
“Most people have never heard of these companies and do not realize they are buying products produced by them, but they do recognise companies like Disney and HarperCollins who are supporting their destructive business practices by purchasing from them.”
APP operates under the Sinar Mas brand, as does palm oil giant Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology, which has in the past been accused by Greenpeace of bulldozing high conservation value forests and damaging carbon-rich peatlands.
APRIL in October disputed many of the accusations against it said it does not source illegally harvested wood and does not source wood from high conservation value forests.
The Rainforest Action Network said HarperCollins lagged other U.S. publishers like Walt Disney Co, the world’s biggest publisher of children’s books, when it came to instituting corporate programmes to help protect the world’s rainforests.
In October, Disney changed its purchasing policies to reduce paper use and avoid paper harvested from endangered forests.
Indonesia is seen as a key player in the fight against climate change and is under intense international pressure to curb deforestation and the destruction of carbon-rich peatlands.
Last year, Greenpeace said it had evidence that Barbie doll packaging came from Indonesian rainforests, accusing toy manufacturers such as Mattel Inc and Walt Disney of contributing to Indonesia’s deforestation.
Forests in the archipelago have also come under threat from the expanding palm oil industry in recent years, which green groups also blame for deforestation, speeding up climate change and destroying wildlife.
Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil, used mainly as an ingredient in food such as biscuits and ice cream and as a biofuel.
To improve its green credentials, Indonesia signed a two-year forest moratorium in May last year, although critics say breaches still occur.