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Great Northern Forest pulped for loo roll

Greenpeace investigation reveals Velvet’s dirty secret

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 reveals that a UK mill that makes Velvet toilet paper is being supplied with wood pulp from protected 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.

A critical battleground

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.

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.

Velvet’s ‘green’ claims

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.’

‘Velvet’s clever marketing and ‘Three Tree Promise’ suggest 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 UK forests campaigner

Aerial photos of an area close to lake Kiltjärnen in Västernorrland County, Sweden. The area has been partly clear-cut, despite being located in a High Value Forest Landscape.


Is Sweden as green as we think?

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 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.’

Greenpeace Great Northern Forest project leader

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 stop using wood from the Great Northern Forest. Click here to sign the petition.

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