Great Northern Forest pulped for toilet roll – Velvet’s dirty secret

Publication date: 27th September 2017

Greenpeace investigates

Wolves in Swedish forest.
Wolves in Swedish forest. © Günter Lenhardt / Greenpeace

A leading brand of toilet paper used by millions of people in the UK has been linked to the destruction of critical parts of Europe’s Great Northern Forest in Sweden.

A report published by Greenpeace today reveals that a UK mill making Velvet toilet paper is being supplied with wood pulp from critical areas of old growth forest in the north of Sweden – crucial habitat for hundreds of iconic species including wolves and lynx.

The report – Wiping out the boreal – reveals how Essity, Velvet’s owner and the world’s second-largest toilet paper and tissue producer, is sourcing pulp from mills supplied by logging companies that are clearcutting some of the region’s last remaining old-growth trees. [1]

Globally, the Great Northern Forest is the world’s largest carbon storage, representing nearly one-third of the forest left on Earth. It’s a critical battleground in the fight to save global biodiversity and to limit climate change, yet less than 3% of it is protected. These logging companies are clearing forests that are either protected or earmarked for protection, destroying habitats of vulnerable species including 1,300 red-listed species such as the grey wolf, wolverine, lynx and Bechstein’s bat. [2]

Logging and replanting with non-native lodgepole pine is also threatening the livelihoods of the Sami indigenous communities in the boreal region. Reindeer herding is central to the Sami communities’ society and identity, but as old growth forest is removed, so are natural reindeer grazing areas [3].

Velvet markets itself as an environmentally sustainable company and has been running its Three Trees Promise, a commitment to replace three trees for each one it uses, since 2009. Essity describes Velvet as “one of the UK’s leading luxury toilet and facial tissue brands for the discerning consumer with an eye on the environment”. [4]

Jamie Woolley, Greenpeace UK forests campaigner, said:

“Velvet’s clever marketing and ‘three tree promise’ suggests the company cares about the environment and sustainability. But its owner, Essity, is sourcing pulp from the last remaining old growth Swedish forests, home to locally endangered species including wolves and lynx. It’s got to stop.

“Forest habitats are complex ecosystems and swapping old growth trees for new ones just isn’t good enough. If Essity really cared, it would leave the Great Northern Forest to flourish, rather than allowing it to be flushed down the toilet.”

Greenpeace Great Northern Forest project leader, Erika Bjureby said:

“The Great Northern Forest is being torn to pieces by logging companies to make disposable products. Essity is a world leader in the tissue production but it’s failing to show leadership in the urgent fight to save the world’s boreal forests from destruction. Essity must clean up its supply chain.”

Sweden and the Nordic countries consistently top rankings of clean and environmentally friendly countries but the Greenpeace investigation shows that Sweden is destroying its last remaining patches of nature. In fact most of Sweden’s “forest” is not natural any more, it’s man-made. In the Swedish forestry model, large areas are clear-cut – completely wiping out the diversity of life – followed by planting of trees from a single species. So while the official statistics say that 70 % of Sweden is covered by forests, most of this is industrial tree plantations where few species can live. Small patches of real forest are spread out in a fragmented landscape consisting mainly of clear-cuts and plantations.

The Great Northern Forest – the Boreal forest – is the green crown of the planet, stretching from Alaska and Canada to northern Scandinavia, Finland, European Russia to Siberia and to the Pacific Ocean. It is the world’s largest terrestrial carbon store and home to a rich diversity of birds, insects and mammals. It contains 20,000 plant and animal species. In the Swedish Boreal you can find wolves, brown bears, lynx and wild boar.

Greenpeace is calling on Essity to ensure that its suppliers stop logging in critical forest landscapes across the boreal region. Sign the petition at www.greenpeace.org.uk/velvet

ENDS

Images of the critical forest landscapes logged by Essity’s supplier SCA in Jämtland, Sweden http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJX7JOT4

Contacts:

Alison Kirkman, Press Officer, alison.kirkman@greenpeace.org 020 7865 8255/ 07896 893154.

Notes for editors:

The full report can be found here: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/forests/2017/GP_Essity_forests_report.pdf

1) Essity buys pulp from its former sister company SCA, which is logging critical forest landscapes in the boreal that have been identified by the Swedish authorities as having ‘particularly high ecological preservation values’. Essity then supplies a number of well-known brands throughout Europe including Velvet, Cushelle, Tempo, Lotus, Colhogar and Edet. Velvet has an estimated 5m customers across the UK: https://www.statista.com/statistics/304028/leading-toilet-paper-brands-in-the-uk/

2) page 13: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/forests/2017/GP_Essity_forests_report.pdf

3) case study 2: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/forests/2017/GP_Essity_forests_report.pdf

Between 1973 and 2014, SCA planted 300,000 ha of lodgepole pine on its lands in northern Sweden. In August 2017, the national association of the Swedish Sámi, Sámiid Rikkasearvi (SSR), issued a press statement demanding that the forestry industry ‘stop planting lodgepole pine in the reindeer husbandry area and develop a plan for the disposal of existing stocks’

4) Velvet’s Three Trees Promise

https://www.essity.com/en/uk/Media/News/2015/Velvet-Trees-Take-Root-in-Leeds/

https://www.essity.com/uk/Products-and-services/Household-tissue/

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) and the Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen) have so far identified 366 ‘Skogliga Värdetrakter’ (or high conservation value forest landscapes) in the boreal region of Sweden. The intention behind these landscapes is to address the serious fragmentation of the Swedish forest, in which most areas with high conservation values are small and widely scattered in vast landscapes of clearcuts and plantations, leaving populations of many species vulnerable by their isolation from other populations and other areas of suitable habitat. However, it remains to be seen whether the Swedish government will translate these proposals into firm action and ensure formal protection for all 366 HVFLs.

Greenpeace: Eye on the Taiga (2017), page 27: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/forests/2017/Eye%20on%20the%20Taiga_Greenpeace_full_report.pdf