The True Cost of Valentine’s Day

Posted on February 8th, 2016 by

With more than a billion Valentine’s Day cards being exchanged globally each year, we take a look at how the supply chain of a simple card is actually causing severe destruction on a wide-scale.

WWF recently conducted research that shows that Valentine’s Day cards sold through retailers could be destroying our rainforests.

A test was undertaken whereby –

  • 20 cards from three well-known UK greetings card retailers (Paperchase, Card Factory and Clintons) were tested.
  • Cards were selected that were not visibly marked as being made of recycled or certified sustainable material. These cards gave the consumer no indication that the material was sourced responsibly.
  • The cards were sent for analysis, with each card being split into its component parts – the envelope, the card itself and any paper inside the card.
  • They were tested for mixed tropical hardwood (MTH), this is a mix of different types of wood and most likely to come from natural tropical forests.
  • Where there was evidence of MTH further analysis was undertaken to establish the amount present.

The results came back from testing to show the presence of MTH fibres as follows –

  • Paperchase – 5% MTH, found in the envelope
  • Card Factory – 10 MTH, found in the card itself
  • Clintons – 8%, found in the paper component of the inside of the card

These items were also found to contain Acacia (44% in the Paperchase card, 37% in the Card Factory card and 15% in the Clintons card), this is likely to have come from plantations in tropical countries.  The presence of Acacia indicates that it is from South East Asia, primarily Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.  These countries export large amounts of pulp destined for the UK market via China, which supplies 94% of imported greetings cards to the UK.


Malaysia and Indonesia have some of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, threatening species such as orang-utans, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos and tigers and clouded leopards.

There needs to be responsibility around the supply chain – in South East Asia, turning the natural forest into plantations has been associated with illegal activities.  Companies need to be sure that Acacia isn’t therefore grown on these types of plantations where there is illegally cleared forests or unsustainable forest conversion of natural forests.

Unless a card is clearly marked as being made from recycled or sustainable material, such as FSC, then the end customer cannot be confident that the product they are purchasing is not contributing towards global deforestation or illegal logging operations.  Whilst there is no regulation that states greeting cards have to be produced from sustainable sources, WWF is asking businesses to sign up to its Forest Campaign, which aims to create a market dealing wholly in sustainable wood products by 2020.

The three companies involved in the WWF case have since responded to the claims against them, but this highlights a need for businesses to be aware and accountable for their entire supply chain and for consumers to be able to have confidence in what they buy.

Card Factory said: “While the EU Timber Regulation doesn’t currently apply to greetings cards, Card Factory operates as though it does. The card in question was made by a third-party supplier. It was produced in 2012, before EU Timber Regulation came into force and before we introduced further controls over our sourcing from third-party suppliers.”

Clintons said: “We require all of our suppliers to comply with applicable law, including the EU Timber Regulation. This report has raised concerns which we are addressing with our supplier. The cards have been withdrawn. We will continue to strive to ensure the ethical sourcing of our timber products.”

WWF stated “Paperchase tweeted that they are sourcing from sustainable wood sources but we still can’t find any policy about this on their website. For such well-known brands, they should be demonstrating leadership on this issue.”  A spokeswoman for Paperchase said the company intends to have full accreditation from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) across all its card ranges in 2016.  “Paperchase no longer work with suppliers who do not have FSC accreditation.”

How can a business help in this situation?

WWF recommends that all businesses selling wood-based products check their supply chains to ensure that they are buying from legal and sustainable sources.

They would also like businesses to provide a publicly available policy on responsible procurement and a summary of how well they are doing in achieving compliance with their policy’s requirements.

Greeting Cards Display Crop

How can the consumer help this situation?

If a business does the above steps as outlined by WWF then the public is able to assess a company’s commitment and performance and be assured that the products they are buying are not contributing to global deforestation.

So, when you go shopping for your Valentine’s card, check the back of the card and see if it is made out of recycled paper or is marked with the FSC logo, indicating that the paper is from sustainably managed forests.  If it’s not, pick another one!

Do you know if every step of your supply chain is operating legally and efficiently? If not, SpringTide are here to help you.
Please give us a call now on +44 (0) 7495 468488
or fill in this form to discuss further.