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Greenpeace calls for proof from Cottonsoft

Published: 8:11AM Tuesday November 22, 2011 Source: ONE News

Greenpeace is calling for toilet paper manufacturer Cottonsoft to release the results of independent testing of three of their products.

The company engaged an independent organisation to test some of its products after claims that the fibre in the products contained Indonesian rainforest fibre.

The data from Covey Consulting, a world leader in technical investigation with expertise in pulp and paper, shows that the products contain hardwood species (acacia and eucalypt) and softwood material, including spruce and Douglas fir. These are all standard pulpwood plantation species.

Cottonsoft says it won't give Greenpeace the results of the independent testing of the products, because the company has no faith in Greenpeace's intentions to engage fairly, constructively or in the best interests of its 130 staff.

However, the company says it will discuss the results with Greenpeace if it changes its previous position and agrees to meet with Cottonsoft representatives.

"It is disappointing that Greenpeace has consistently declined our invitations, preferring to maintain its strategy of public attacks on Cottonsoft," said Steve Nicholson, Cottonsoft's corporate affairs director.

Earlier this year Greenpeace called for a customer and retailer boycott of Cottonsoft after they conducted an investigation with the Green Party and WWF New Zealand into where New Zealand toilet paper comes from.

Greenpeace claimed it found mixed tropical hardwoods - timber from rainforests - was in a range of Cottonsoft products.

"Forensic tests found parts of an Indonesian rainforest in their own brand toilet roll," Greenpeace campaigner Nathan Argent said.

"Either Cottonsoft are deliberately misleading New Zealanders by claiming all their products are certified as sustainable or Cottonsoft has accidentally admitted that PEFC-certified products contain rainforest timber, which places them at the heart of an international scandal."

As a result, New Zealand-owned grocery chain, Foodstuffs requested Cottonsoft undertake an independent audit of their environmental credentials.

Nicholson said, "Greenpeace based its misguided and misleading campaign against Cottonsoft on a single premise: it had commissioned tests which proved that APP products contained fibre from what Greenpeace called 'trashed Indonesian rainforest'".

Cottonsoft said the science Greenpeace used was flawed.

The company Greenpeace employed to carry out the tests, Integrated Paper Services, has since stated in a letter that there is no scientific basis for this claim, he said.

"We think Greenpeace owes Cottonsoft an explanation: it has campaigned to stop New Zealand retailers doing business with us, and consumers buying our products, on the basis of a completely unsubstantiated claim that is so erroneous even the company commissioned by Greenpeace cannot stand behind it. Furthermore, our own independent testing refutes it," Nicholson said.

Katherine Rich, Chief Executive of the NZ Food and Grocery Council, agrees telling TV ONE's Breakfast that Greenpeace owes Cottonsoft an apology.

"Greenpeace has been caught out playing fast and loose with the truth in this instance they've based their whole campaign on the fact that Cottonsoft Indonesia rainforests and they said they had the tests to prove and this has been proved incorrect."

"The collateral damage of course is the effect on brands reputation and local jobs."

However, Greenpeace says it stands by the investigation which it says proved that samples of toilet paper manufactured by Cottonsoft contain Indonesian rainforest fibre.

Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid said: "We are 100% behind our statements about Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), and its New Zealand subsidiary Cottonsoft, fuelling rainforest destruction. This is based on both robust forensic testing, and years of experience on the ground in Indonesia, documenting deforestation and tracking the companies involved."

She told TV ONE's Breakfast they have not seen the results of Cottonsoft's testing and is demanding they release them to prove their claims that it does not contain timber from rainforests.

"It doesn't actually say they didn't find any mixed tropical hardwoods it just names some of the hardwoods they did find. They need to release all of the testing."

Workers vulnerable

Rich said she has spoken to workers at Cottonsoft's Dunedin factory and said they are feeling very disturbed and vulnerable.

But McDiarmid said "this isn't a cosy New Zealand company this is one of the largest Indonesia pulping companies operating."

The Warehouse suspended orders of Cottonsoft toilet rolls, pending the investigation on their source.

Rich says Cottonsoft, like a number of other FGC members recently, has been unfairly scapegoated by activists who use such campaigns to gather large amounts of money in donations. 

"We aren't alone in drawing this conclusion. Only last week the Wall St Journal put it so eloquently in an article commenting about recent Greenpeace attacks on tuna companies around the world."

The products tested were not provided by Cottonsoft but sourced directly, by an independent party, for Covey Consulting, which then blind-tested all samples.

McDiarmid said: "This attack comes as no surprise - Cottonsoft's parent company Asia Pulp and Paper has been wheeling its huge PR machine around the globe in the past few weeks, attacking Greenpeace, as more and more companies decide they don't want to buy into APP's brand of rainforest destruction."

"Rather than spending their cash on PR consultants, APP and Cottonsoft should put their energy into cleaning up their act. Every other toilet paper manufacturer in New Zealand manages to operate successfully without trashing rainforests - why can't they?"

It is Cottonsoft that is endangering the jobs of its workers, by using rainforest fibres to manufacture its toilet paper, McDiarmid said.