Barbie Brand Takes a Hit Over Rainforest Destruction

It turns out Barbie isn’t the environmentally conscientious modern woman we all hoped she was. Greenpeace recently took on Mattel for packaging Barbie in materials made from endangered rainforests.

Greenpeace claims that Mattel is using Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)—which uses wood from Indonesian rainforests—as a supplier, and has mounted an all-out attack on our all-American girl.

A humorous but damaging video—of Ken breaking up with Barbie over her apparent involvement in deforestation—was posted by Greenpeace two weeks ago and has already received 284,899 hits. It’s gone viral, and the news of the Ken & Barbie breakup has even made it as a trending topic on Yahoo!

Mattel may have learned a valuable lesson. In today’s world of real-time social media the truth about your product spreads rapidly and it’s difficult to control.

In response to the accusations from Greenpeace, Mattel stated that it is “developing a sustainable procurement policy for all of Mattel’s product lines, which will address the important issue of deforestation.”

Mattel goes on to say its “sustainability strategy is focused on helping the company minimize its footprint throughout the value chain and across the organization.”

Clearly, Mattel requires increased visibility into and tighter control of the supply chain. It needs to be able to assess product compliance, performance and risk early in the innovation process.

The supply chain is growing for companies across the board, and with tighter regulations and compliance issues it’s even more essential to keep tabs on what’s happening downstream. Take retail—a footwear company, say. It needs to understand where the leather in its shoes originates from. A supplier can’t buy the leather from anyone who uses cattle farmed on illegally deforested land.

Maybe for Mattel it could have been as simple as having manufacturing track compliance with the EU Packaging Directive and other such imperatives.

It’s hard to swallow the Ken & Barbie break-up (sniff, sniff). But even harder to swallow is the bad press Mattel could have avoided by thinking through potential supply chain issues right from the get-go.

Photo Credit: Ahh Natural Setting by Christine Majul on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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