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New Report Shows Publishing Industry Trend to Protect Rainforests; Two Leading Publishers Receive Failing Grades

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Publishers of Where the Wild Things Are and Baby Einstein Linked to Rainforest Destruction
Thursday, November 18, 2010

San Francisco – Eleven of the nation’s largest children’s book publishers are receiving grades on their roles in rainforest protection today. In a new report and consumer guide released by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), “Rainforest-Safe Kids' Books: How Do Publishers Stack Up?” leading book publishers are being ranked based on their paper policies and purchasing practices. The consumer guide follows a report launched by the environmental group in May finding that a large number of kids’ books sold in the United States are now being printed in Asia using paper that is closely linked to the loss of rainforests in Indonesia.

Seven publishers, including Candlewick Press, Hachette Book Group, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Group USA (Pearson), Scholastic and Simon & Schuster, were “recommended” to consumers this holiday season for their strong environmental practices. Two publishers, Disney Publishing Worldwide, and HarperCollins, were rated as companies to “avoid.” Two publishers, Random House and Sterling Publishing, earned a “could do better” mark. For the consumer guide and more information about which publishers are “rainforest-safe,” visit http://ran.org/bookguide.

The “recommended” publishing companies are early adopters in what has become a growing industry trend to source paper that is not linked to deforestation, social conflict or excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Since RAN’s report in May, which exposed the scope of the problem, six of the “recommended” publishers have confirmed that they will not use controversial Indonesian fiber for paper and that they will suspend business with the two most notorious Indonesian pulp and paper companies, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), until key reforms are adopted. Scholastic had already taken these actions as part of their industry-leading sustainability program. The new paper contract requirements align leading publishers with companies in other sectors who have cancelled or not renewed contracts with APP and/or APRIL due to environmental concerns, including Staples, Office Depot, Fed-Ex Kinko’s, Corporate Express, Gucci Group, Tiffany & Co., H&M and Unisource.

“The good news is that many of the country’s largest publishers, seven out of the eleven in our study, are taking decisive action to help protect Indonesia’s rainforests, some of the most critically endangered forests on the planet,” said Lafcadio Cortesi of Rainforest Action Network. “Leaders in the publishing industry are showing that rainforest-safe books are not only preferable but possible right now. Well-known publishers like HarperCollins and Disney Publishing Worldwide are failing to step up to what’s becoming the industry standard.”

Indonesia’s rainforests, home to unique species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are under severe threat from paper companies that rely on clearing rainforests and peatlands for fiber plantations, which supply cheap pulp to their paper mills in China and Indonesia. This controversial paper is then used by Asian printers to manufacture kids’ and other books for U.S. and international markets.

“The huge carbon footprint from the destruction of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands has made the country the third-largest global greenhouse gas emitter, behind only the U.S. and China,” said Cortesi. “To keep up with the growing publishing industry trend to protect rainforests and the climate, Asian paper producers, like APP, must shift away from their unsustainable business model, which relies on clear-cutting forests and evicting communities. It is time Indonesian paper companies get behind their country’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, and support Indonesia’s growing efforts toward green development.”

By using non-controversial papers and rainforest-safe alternatives, the “recommended” U.S. publishers in RAN’s study are encouraging Indonesian pulp and paper companies to transition their practices away from a business model that often relies on evicting communities, clear cutting rainforests, and draining carbon rich peatlands to replace them with plantations. With their new paper policies, leading U.S. publishers are signaling support for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitments on climate as well as the recent Letter of Intent (LOI) (and associated moratorium on further forest loss) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation between the governments of Indonesia and Norway, which was supported by U.S. president Obama on his recent visit to Indonesia.

Rankings for the consumer guide were determined based on the companies’ answers to a paper procurement survey conducted in August 2010 by RAN as well as each company’s public statements, environmental policies and commitments. After an initial scoring, RAN shared its assessment with each publisher and requested feedback and further clarification. RAN then re-evaluated and finalized the rankings.

For more information about which publishers are “rainforest-safe,” download the full report and pocket-size shopping guide, at http://ran.org/bookguide.  A supplementary list of “rainforest-safe” book titles can be found at http://ran.org/readinglist.

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org

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