The Disney Company said Thursday that it is overhauling its paper sourcing policy in a change that will maximize recycled content and fibers sourced from Forest Stewardship Council-certified operations and eliminate paper products containing “irresponsibly harvest fiber, such as fiber from High Conservation Value Areas.” The policy goes into effect immediately beginning with paper bought directly by Disney or behalf of Disney for use in its own products (including books) and packaging. The second phase will address paper sourced by Disney’s licensees.

The Rainforest Action Network, which had been critical of Disney Publishing’s paper policy in a report issued two years ago, praised the move as one that will help slow the deforestation of rainforests, particularly in Indonesia. “Disney’s commitment will reduce the demand for paper made at the expense of rainforests while creating incentives for improved forest management and green growth,” said Lafcadio Cortesi, the Asia director at RAN. Cortesi told PW that while RAN began talking to Disney about only its publishing operations, discussions on how to improve its paper policy moved to include the entire Disney company. “That’s what is so exciting,” said Cortesi. “It will send ripples through a very, very large supply chain” and affect everything from paper for books to where Disney sources pulp for such products as napkins.

Given the scope of Disney’s operations, Cortesi expects it will take five to seven years before the policy is fully implemented, but the company has already taken a number of steps to move forward and has agreed to fast-track changes that will cut ties to suppliers that operate in high risk areas such as Indonesia. One near-term goal is that by the end of 2012, the North American Disney Book group, Hyperion and ESPN Magazine will eliminate buying fiber from high-risk regions and use FSC certified fiber.

To implement the policy across the entire company, Disney has begun gathering data on paper use and sourcing throughout the supply chain to enable it to development improvement targets. By the end of 2013, Disney intends to design and develop a prioritized tracking and verification process that includes annual supplier source origin surveys; annual random audits; annual random fiber test; and verification of the source of supplies from high-risk areas. By the end of 2014 it plans to implement the tracking and verification process for fiber it source for its own use.

“The paper policy is an example of how Disney conducts business in an environmentally and socially responsible way, and demonstrates the company’s commitment to creating a lasting, positive impact on ecosystems and communities worldwide,” said Beth Stevens, senior v-p, Disney Corporate Citizenship, Environment and Conservation.

Cortesi is hopefully that Disney’s willingness to eliminate sourcing paper from Indonesia will put the pressure on the two controversial paper giants, Asia Pulp and Paper and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings, to change the way they harvest timber in the Indonesian rainforests.