By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Kimberly-Clark, the world’s largest personal paper products company, announced new policies today in which the paper maker will greatly increase the use of recycled and sustainably grown wood fibers in its products, which include the Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands.
The move will help save forests around the globe and make the Dallas-based company a leader in producing sustainable paper products, said Greenpeace media officer Daniel Kessler. “We worked with Kimberly-Clark on this policy and it’s a landmark for forest protection; 100 percent of Kimberly-Clark’s fiber will come from sustainable sources.”
For five years, Greenpeace had pressured Kimberly-Clark to become more environmentally sensitive about the raw material used for its paper products. Greenpeace’s “Kleercut” campaign protested Kimberly-Clark’s use of virgin wood fiber in Kleenex tissues, organizing blockades and demonstrations and arguing that the company’s use of trees from Canada’s Boreal Forest and other virgin sources was contributing to world-wide deforestation.
The new fiber-sourcing policies announced Wednesday bring the long-running Kleercut campaign to an end and make public Kimberly-Clark’s plans for more sustainable business practices.
Over the next three years, Kimberly-Clark will dramatically adjust its sourcing for disposable paper products, aiming to ultimately get all of its fiber from sustainable sources. By the end 2011, the global paper product maker has promised that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber – representing an estimated 600,000 tons – will be either recycled or certified as sustainably grown by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). That represents an increase of more than 70 percent over 2007 levels.
“We are committed to using environmentally responsible wood fiber and today’s announcement enhances our industry-leading practices in this area,” said Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark Vice President of Environment, Energy, Safety, Quality and Sustainability, in a news release.
“It is our belief that certified primary wood fiber and recycled fiber can both be used in an environmentally responsible way and can provide the product performance that customers and consumers expect from our well-known tissue brands. We commend Greenpeace for helping us develop more sustainable standards.”
Paper companies, including Kimberly-Clark, have long argued that consumers prize softness in tissues and toilet paper, which the companies used to justify their use of virgin wood fibers for disposable personal care products.
But consumer tastes and desires are changing, and the focus on softness may be lessening as people become more aware of environmental degradation associated with common household products.
“Consumers vote with their dollars. We know that as consumers become increasingly concerned with supporting environmentally friendly products, they increase pressure on companies to do the right thing,” Kessler said, noting that an estimated 20 percent of global greenhouse gases come from deforestation.
The temperate Boreal Forest, like the tropical rainforests in the Southern Hemisphere, is a huge carbon sink, holding in the ground carbon that adds to the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels when released. Environmentalists from Greenpeace to Prince Charles of Great Britain are passionately trying to save the forests to mitigate global warming.
Under the new agreement, Kimberly-Clark will not purchase of any fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest that is not FSC certified by 2011, helping preserve the forest as well as endangered animals that depend upon it.
“Today, ancient forests like the Boreal Forest have won,” said Richard Brooks, Greenpeace Canada Forest Campaign Coordinator in the news release. “This new relationship between Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace will promote forest conservation, responsible forest management, and recycled fiber as far and wide as possible.”
Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark employs 53,000 people around the world, and posted sales of $19.4 billion in 2008, according to company statements. It makes products under the Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex and Depends brands.
Greenpeace has posted a web page where consumers can thank Kimberly-Clark for this move toward more sustainable practices.
Kimberly-Clark also has other sustainability initiatives.
(Image credit: Greenpeace.)
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