ForestEthics Dresses Down Victoria’s Secret

San Francisco, CA-based ForestEthics is aiming to expose lingerie cataloger Victoria’s Secret and parent company The Limited Brands as less than angelic when it comes to the environment. The environmental advocacy organization last week launched a campaign against the marketer in protest of its lax standards in using recycled paper.

ForestEthics kicked off the campaign on Oct. 14 with demonstrations outside Victoria’s Secret stores across the country. Outside one of the cataloger’s San Francisco stores, activists dressed in Victoria’s Secret lingerie–as well the company’s signature angle wings–held chainsaws and passed out literature explaining the logging practices of Victoria’s Secret. The campaign will also include advertising in newspapers, posters in major cities across the country, and an e-activism initiative with local grassroots environmental groups.

Columbus, OH-based Victoria’s Secret mails 52 catalogs annually, which are, according to ForestEthics, printed primarily on virgin pulp logged in the Canadian Boreal–the third largest forest wilderness in the world and home to countless wildlife and endangered species. “Because of the size and amount of catalogs they produce, the impact is massive. They have the responsibility and the potential to influence positively these forests,” says ForestEthics program director Tzeporah Berman.

ForestEthics in May began talks with six of the largest catalogers, including Lands’ End, J.C. Penney, L.L. Bean, Williams-Sonoma, J. Crew, and The Limited, about their limited use of recycled papers and high use of pulp fiber from endangered forests. Berman says that some of the companies have “dramatically increased their use of recycled paper,” and made a commitment to taking part in a stewardship campaign, or reviewed their procurement processes.

Why is Victoria’s Secret a target of the current campaign? ForestEthics is not happy that the cataloger renewed its contracts with supplier International Paper Co. “We raised concerns about the Boreal in Alberta during the time of our talks with the other catalogers and [Victoria’s Secret] renewed their major contract with International Paper,” says Berman, who notes that 25% of the paper used for Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs comes from International Paper’s mill in the Canadian Boreal region.

But Limited Brands spokesman Anthony Hebron contends that the company is “a leader in the retail industry with respect to waste reduction and office paper recycling. We also have initiated a major effort to use more post-consumer recycled content paper, reduce direct mail and conduct more efficient targeted mailing of other materials sent to customers.” In 2004, Victoria’s Secret started using 10% post-consumer waste (PCW) paper in its clearance catalogs, of which approximately 24 million copies are distributed annually. Hebron says the cataloger will expand the use of 10% PCW and higher-content PCW paper in the future based on feasibility and the availability of quality PCW paper.

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