Pushing the Paper Industry Toward Environmental and Social Responsibility

The average North American touches paper countless times a day. From the morning newspaper to cash register receipts to packaging for a take-out lunch, paper is part of so many of our daily activities we can easily take it for granted. Yet the true environmental and social costs of these everyday products often go unnoticed.

Sadly, the pulp and paper industry is one of the key drivers of forest loss in the world today. Indonesia has become ground zero for land grabbing and human rights violations, greenhouse gas emissions and species loss linked to the pulp and paper industry. The cleared forests of Sumatra and Borneo are turned into copy paper, books, product packaging, shopping bags and toilet paper for consumers in the United States, Asia, Africa and Europe. The global network of corporate supply chains connects all of us to deforestation but it also gives us the tools and the opportunity to take effective action to stop it.

Rainforest Action Network specializes in uncovering and exposing links between irresponsible policies and practices and deforestation, and in applying firm and direct pressure to industry laggards that have yet to clean up their supply chain act. RAN also works with companies that are ready and willing to be rainforest advocates, working to develop and implement solutions to reshape business as usual so that human rights are respected and consumer concerns about local communities and the environment are addressed.

Impacts of the Paper Industry

In many forest-rich countries like Indonesia, some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests are being significantly altered or cleared and replaced by pulp plantations that drastically reduce ecological and cultural values. Indigenous and forest dependent communities’ lands and livelihoods are being uprooted, and iconic wildlife species like the Sumatran tiger and Sumatran elephant are being driven to the edge of extinction by the loss of huge swaths of critical rainforest habitat.

The pulp and paper industry is a globally significant source of carbon pollution contributing to climate change. Deforestation has elevated Indonesia to the status of the third largest green house gas-emitting nation in the world – with about 80% of the country’s emissions stemming from changes in land use and deforestation.

A tragic result of all of this environmental destruction and pollution is human suffering and social conflict across Southeast Asia. Rainforest Action Network is supporting the growing movement in Indonesia for land tenure reform, as Indigenous and local communities have seen their customary land and human rights ignored and violated by pulp and paper companies that cut their forests and evict them from the land many have depended on for generations. RAN is working with Indonesian allies to identify community demands, undertake investigations into abuses, support restitution and resolution and to leverage market pressure to address these problems.

A Vision for Reform

Rainforest Action Network, along with the other members of the Environmental Paper Network, endorses the Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry. Together, we call upon the industry to adopt the ‘Precautionary Principle’ with regard to use of natural resources and chemicals throughout the production process and to refrain from activities that could cause irreparable harm to human health and the environment. It is critical that the industry respects, upholds, redresses violations of human rights, workers’ rights, and the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities, including land tenure rights and the right to free, prior and informed consent.

Resources for Activists, Companies and Consumers:

While it may be surprising to realize, the paper in your home, school, and workplace may still be connected to rainforest destruction. Below are resources you can use to increase responsible purchasing in your community.

Promote Environmentally Sound Paper Use in Your Community
  • “What You Can Do to Promote Environmental Papers.” - Conservatree.

  • “RePaper Project.” - Environmental Paper Network

  • Join forces with RAN to pressure APP & APRIL to stop destroying rainforests and violating rights.
  • Sign up to receive occasional Rapid Responder alerts HERE to stay up to date on opportunities to take action in support of RAN’s Rainforest-Free Paper campaign.

  • Follow our Twitter @TheRightPaper for updates.

  • Roar for Rainforests with Tiki the Tiger
  • Check out our kids’ page and meet Tiki the Tiger. Read Tiki’s story and share it with the kids in your life to help kids learn about rainforests and how to protect them.

  • Resources for Companies:
  • “Our Common Vision for the Paper Industry.” Environmental Paper Network

  • “Applications for Paper and Pulp Purchasers.” Environmental Paper Network

  • “The Root of the Problem – Drivers of Deforestation.” Union of Concerned Scientists

  • Learn More

    Green tells a moving story about the corporate conversion of rainforests in Indonesia for palm oil, tropical wood and paper through the eyes of a dying orangutan - a victim of deforestation and resource exploitation. This film is a visual journey illustrating the impacts of land clearing, the effects of consumerism, the tragic loss of biodiversity and the other harsh realities that Indonesian rainforest destruction is inflicting upon endangered species like the orangutan.
    Global demand for cheap wood and paper products is one of the largest drivers of forest destruction worldwide. Forest certification and labeling is intended to inform consumers if their purchases of wood or paper products are derived from well-managed forests, and to improve transparency, accountability and performance within the poorly controlled $500 billion global forest products industry. But not all certification systems are created equally. Here is RAN's perspective on current forest certification systems.