Radio 4, More or Less and the "15% of deforestation..." stat.
You may have seen the statistic, 15% of deforestation is because of toilet roll.
Recently we used it in a radio campaign. It was used widely online, citing the Natural Resource Defence Council (NDRC) as its source.
We sent the NDRC's report to RadioCentre, the body who pre-approves radio advertising, who employed an independent consultant, who in turn approved the use of the stat on radio.
The only problem was, the stat did not stand up.
Radio 4's More or Less dug into the statistic and found that although toilet tissue is one of the pressures on deforestation it is impossible to put a number on it.
You can listen to the More or Less episode here.
We've taken our radio ad off air, and will be updating a TV campaign that made use of the stat before the tv advert runs later this year.
Virgin pulp toilet roll is not a sustainable option, and we'll continue to offer people simple sustainable switches to their shopping basket.
But in future we'll be more careful with what we read online.
Here's our full statement to Radio 4:
At Serious Tissues, we believe that toilet roll made from trees should be a thing of the past. Our toilet roll made from 100% recycled paper is a totally circular, carbon neutral solution that means more trees can stay in the ground and continue absorbing carbon, rather than being cut down. According to the Environmental Paper Network, paper made from trees has three times the climate impact of paper created using recycled materials.
Clearly sustainable forestry is better than destroying primary forests, but the NRDC shined a light on the link between major tissue product manufacturers, including P&G, and the destruction of the Canadian Boreal in 2019. The situation has got better since then, but the belief is that there is still a sizeable chunk of toilet paper being made from the destruction of primary forests. We believe this needs to stop and is a key reason why we started Serious Tissues.
When we found the 15% figure that we’ve used in our radio advert in a number of articles, we were blown away by it, as clearly a lot of your listeners were. We went through the process of getting it signed off for use in advertising pointing to the same source used in these articles and it was cleared for use. We were really surprised that on further investigation from the team at More or Less, the 15% figure has proved difficult to fully substantiate. Clearly some of deforestation is driven by demand for tissue manufacture. Finding the exact percentage is tricky. Which is probably why we gravitated to the statistic when we thought it was available.
We know that the main driver of deforestation in tropical forests is for soy and beef production in tropical forests, but even then, forestry products which include tissue production account for 13% of deforestation. However, the same breakdown is not available for non-tropical forests. When we look at the reports of deforestation in Sweden and in Canada, we know that forestry products are a much bigger driver. We also know 25% of softwood pulp from forestry is used for toilet roll tissue production. So, in some locations, the percentage of deforestation driven by tissue manufacture may even be higher than 15%.
However, we recognise that that is still conjecture rather than confirmed fact and the 15% doesn’t represent a global statistic. As a result, we’re going to stop using that particular figure in our advertising and we’ll work to find another statistic that we can substantiate. We’re still fully committed to weaning people off toilet paper made from trees as we believe it’s an absolutely vital move for the climate and future generations.