The Canadian boreal forest absorbs enough carbon each year to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of 24 million cars. It’s home to endangered caribou, Canadian lynx, snowshoe hares, and billions of birds. It has also sustained Indigenous communities for millennia.
But, tragically, we’re losing the boreal at a rate of one and a half football fields per minute. Where vast swaths of biodiverse forests once stood, there are now millions of acres of degraded forest: fields of tree trunks interspersed with logging roads and saplings. The trees that once stood there, performing essential ecosystem services and absorbing carbon emissions, have long since been turned into pulp and flushed down the toilet or thrown out as tissues or toilet paper.
Procter & Gamble (P&G)—one of the largest tissue producers in the country—creates paper products like Charmin, Bounty and Puffs from virgin wood fibers sourced from the boreal forest. Although P&G has the means to reduce their impact on the boreal forest, they refuse to commit to producing their paper with more sustainable materials, hoping American consumers will overlook environmental degradation in favor of extra-soft toilet paper and tissue products.
They are wrong and to prove it, Environment America Research & Policy Center organized consumers across the U.S. from Sept. 20 to 25 to urge Procter & Gamble to commit to reducing forest degradation in their supply chain. The week of action garnered more than 600 RSVP’s to participate, 15,000 petition signatures, dozens of tweets directed at P&G’s executives and shareholders, letters submitted to newspapers around the country and emails sent to Bounty and Charmin about birds that breed in the boreal.
The digital week of action was timed to occur just weeks before Procter & Gamble’s annual shareholder meeting on Oct. 12. At last year’s shareholder meeting, a majority of P&G investors voted in favor of a Green Century Capital Management resolution calling on P&G to increase its efforts to mitigate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chains.
Since then, P&G announced accelerated commitments for achieving wood certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council and agreed to make additional commitments to ensure supplier compliance with no-deforestation practices. However, environmental groups assert that the company has failed to make adequate commitments for how it will end deforestation and the degradation of intact primary forests. Instead, P&G has increased the volume of pulp it purchases from Canada by more than 15% in the last year.
Preventing Procter & Gamble from unnecessarily sourcing wood pulp from what remains of the boreal forest is essential in slowing climate change, protecting endangered and threatened species, and preserving the livelihood of Indigenous communities.
It is time for Procter & Gamble to begin using such alternative materials as bamboo, wheat straw or recycled paper to make their tissue products. Many of their competitors already do this. But until P&G makes a strong commitment, the onus is on consumers to purchase alternative brands and to continue pressuring P&G to improve their policies.