Disney World and Disneyland’s Rainforest Café is marketed as a “wild place to shop and eat.” I don’t know about all that, but one of my earliest memories of exposure to tropical rainforest-y surroundings, or at least rainforest-themed locations was at the Disney World branch in Florida. The other was the much more educational and realistic simulated rainforest at the Baltimore Aquarium.

Both were during the early to mid 1980s when ecology made its second or third leap into mainstream consciousness via clever marketing schemes and toothless money-making ventures. Save the Amazon by eating a rainforest crunch bar. Enjoy a CD of synthesizers woven seamlessly into Peruvian pan pipes and pygmy chants. You are doing your part.

Are Mickey and Co. now putting their money where their collective mouth is? That would have to be an incredibly big mouth since the company’s net worth is estimated at around $5 billion US.

At any rate, the entertainment giant has responded to an effective protest by the Rainforest Action Network which last year hung a banner outside Disney headquarters in Burbank, California reading “DISNEY: DESTROYING INDONESIA’S RAINFORESTS”.

pic: Rainforest Action Network

From the RAN website:

Disney has announced a comprehensive paper policy that maximizes its use of environmentally superior papers like recycled and eliminates controversial sources like those connected to Indonesian rainforest destruction. This policy applies to the company’s entire international operations, including thousands of licensees of Disney characters.

And I bet you didn’t even know that your Donald Duck Dixie cups were killing orangutans.

After initial resistance and then negotiations with RAN, Disney agreed to source its paper from areas approved by the Forest Stewardship Council and avoid using tropical hardwoods, such as those logged in the Indonesian rainforests. It will also end its relationship with two of the largest companies in terms of deforestation, namely Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Disney is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines. Products bearing its brands are manufactured at about 25,000 factories in more than 100 countries.

RAN also announced that nine other US publishers, such as Random House and Penguin, have adopted similar paper sourcing policies.

In the end it was a question of brand image, according to Robin Averbeck, who lead the campaign for RAN.

From the Guardian:

She and other negotiators for Ran said that it didn’t take long for senior executives to understand how damaging it could be to Disney’s brand to be associated with the destruction of ancient forests, the dwindling of Sumatran tigers and elephants, and a major contribution to global warming.

Deforestation in Indonesia, pic: Rainforest Action Network