(Reuters) - Walt Disney Co, the world's biggest publisher of children's books, said on Thursday it changed its purchasing policies to reduce paper use and avoid paper harvested from endangered forests.
The new policy aims to eliminate paper made with "irresponsibly harvested fiber" and maximize use of products that come from areas approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, Disney said in a statement. It follows similar moves by other major publishers.
Disney's guidelines also are meant to minimize paper consumption and boost use of recycled content, the company said.
Environmentalists who had pushed for the changes praised Disney's decision as a major step to protect forests, the homes of animals that have inspired popular Disney characters in movies such as "The Lion King" and "The Jungle Book."
Disney's shift "will have a particularly important impact in Indonesia, the primary place where rainforests are still being cut down for pulp and paper," Rebecca Tarbotton, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network.
Indonesia has some of the world's most biologically diverse forests in the world and is home to endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger.
The Rainforest Action Network said it began pushing Disney to change its paper practices in 2010 when lab results found Disney children's books were printed with rainforest fiber.
The new policy will apply first to paper sourced directly by Disney and later to independent licensees, the company said. Disney will report annually on its progress.
Nine U.S. publishers, including Bertlesmann unit Random House and Pearson Plc's Penguin group, have adopted similar paper policies, the rainforest group said.
Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by M.D. Golan