31 January, 2011

Activists ramp up blitz on Reflex paper

Ben Butler

The Age, January 31, 2011

Activists ramp up blitz on Reflex paper : http://www.theage.com.au/business/activists-ramp-up-blitz-on-reflex-paper-20110130-1a9si.html

A GREEN group has made corporate Australia its No.1 target, ramping up pressure on the makers of paper brand Reflex to stop using timber logged from native forests.

The Wilderness Society's battle with Australian Paper has already spilled over into cyberspace, with the company last week convincing internet giant Google to stop showing advertisements for the green group's ''Ethical Paper'' campaign.

Now the activists plan to target Reflex stockists including Wesfarmers subsidiaries Officeworks and Coles and new US entrant Staples, which took over Corporate Express last year.

Advertisement: Story continues below
The green group is also considering taking legal action against Australian Paper under the Trade Practices Act, because a company website appears to endorse allegedly misleading facts created by state-owned logger VicForests.

Wilderness Society campaigner Luke Chamberlain said woodchips from state-owned native forests received a subsidy worth hundreds of millions of dollars, creating an unfair price advantage over plantation-sourced chips.

''It's not an even playing field here - this is corporate socialism whereby VicForests is acting as a middleman, handing over a public asset for private profit,'' he said.

''The question to Australian Paper is: why do we continue to rip out a public resource, extinguish a public asset, when there's perfectly good alternatives?''

He said his group had sent letters to corporate social responsibility officers at 2500 Australian companies and on Thursday began a phone campaign with the top 400.

Feedback from companies was ''incredibly positive'', Mr Chamberlain said. ''Obviously we're dealing with some of the major distributors of Australian Paper. They don't want to have environment groups on their back - they spruik their environmental credentials and I think their branding is potentially at risk if we target them.''

Wesfarmers, Australia's eighth-biggest company, already bears the scars of an earlier battle with the Wilderness Society. After a long campaign including embarrassing protests outside its Bunnings hardware stores, the chain switched from native to plantation wood.

The stoush flared up online last week, with Google pulling down Wilderness Society ads that appeared above search results for Reflex, after a complaint from Australian Paper.

The paper company, a subsidiary of Japan's Nippon Paper Group, has hit back with a website, ''Ethical Paper - The Facts'', saying more than half its fibre needs come from plantation timber and recycled paper. ''The remainder is sourced through VicForests,'' it said.

On Friday, the company, with 1200 employees, said it ''welcomes open discussion from all stakeholders'' about its performance.

No comments: