Gland, Switzerland – German book publishers have only marginally improved performance in excluding paper pulp sourced through destruction of tropical forests that are home to critically endangered elephants, tigers and orang-utans.

A WWF-Germany survey of children’s books found about 30 per cent of books contained significant amounts of mixed tropical hardwood fibres characteristic of natural forest destruction. A 2009 children’s book survey found mixed tropical hardwood fibres in 40% of German children’s books from one third of the publishing houses sampled.

Children’s books linked to forest destruction included titles such as the Rainforests book from The Magic World of Knowledge series and This is the Forest.

WWF attributes the low rate of improvement to increased production of books in China and large scale sourcing of pulp from deforestation in Indonesia and other tropical forest countries. Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper company, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), linked with its suppliers to the destruction of more than 2 million hectares of tropical forest in Sumatra, directly operates 20 pulp and paper mills in China with an annual production of eight million tonnes.

“Germany’s publishers have been amazingly slow to react despite the highlighting of their involvement in forest destruction in 2009,” said Emmanuelle Neyroumande, Manager of WWF´s global paper programme.

The global conservation organization renewed its call for responsible sourcing by publishing houses worldwide.

“Recycled or appropriately certified pulp and paper sources are all avenues available for companies wanting to end their involvement with tropical forest destruction,” said Neyroumande.

WWF applauded the decision of one major publisher to use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sources from now on. Some publishing houses, including Holtzbrinck-Group, Kosmos Verlag Lingen Verlag or Oetinger Verlag had committed to recycled or FSC certified paper sourcing since the initial WWF survey, with Random House Germany being a pioneer in responsible sourcing from even earlier.

“Offering books to children is a great gift, but no parent and grandparent wants to place books contributing to forest destruction under the Christmas tree and therefore the publishing houses need to source responsibly and influence their suppliers,” said Neyroumande.

The English executive summary of the report can be found here.

The full German report can be found here.

Wood fibres from tropical rainforests can be detected with fibre analysis in laboratories. This method has experienced increased recognition in the paper industry and WWF has been using it since 2009 intensively. The tests show clearly the occurrence of different tropical timber species which are not typically used in plantations. If such tropical timber fibres are found, they stem with a high degree of probability from destruction of tropical rainforest.

The most dramatic case of rainforest destruction in Indonesia is Sumatra. 70% of the original forest cover has been destroyed in only a few decades – forests that count among the most biodiverse on earth and are home to the Sumatran Elephant, Rhino, Orang Utans and Tigers which are pushed to the brink of extinction.

The drainage of deep peat soils caused by natural forest clearance is further an issue of global concern due to the massive climate change emissions. According to a recent estimate by the Sumatra-based NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest, the company Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has pulped more than 2 million hectares of tropical forests in Sumatra since it started pulp production there in 1984. The company continues to be criticized by civil society.

Estimate from APP sources, independent studies, sources in table pp22-26, Eyes on the Forest The truth behind APP’s greenwash, (14 December 2011).

Source: WWF for latest news and media resources