New Kimberly-Clark Policy Promises Greener Kleenex

WASHINGTON, DC — Tissue maker Kimberly-Clark will halve its use of Canadian Boreal wood fiber coming from non-certified sources by late 2010, and eliminate it completely a year later.

Kimberly-Clark, the world’s largest tissue products company and producer of brands such as Kleenex and Scott, worked with vocal critic Greenpeace to design a new sourcing policy that will avoid wood fiber from North America’s largest old growth forest unless it is certified by nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council. By the end of 2011, 40 percent of Kimberly-Clark’s North American tissue fiber will be either FSC certified or recycled, compared to nearly 30 percent in 2008.

Roughly 98 percent of the wood fiber and pulp purchased by the company comes from certified suppliers, with a goal of reaching 100 percent. The certifications include the FSC, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Canadian Standards Association’s National Sustainable Forest Management Standards, Sistema Brasileiro de Certificacao Florestal or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes.

"We are committed to using environmentally responsible wood fiber and today's announcement enhances our industry-leading practices in this area," Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark’s vice president of environment, energy, safety, quality and sustainability, said in a statement. "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.”

Other aspects of Kimberly-Clark’s new procurement policy include an expansion of recycling initiatives, a preference for post-consumer recycled content, and the identification, mapping and protection of regions that could be designated Endangered or High Conservation Value forests.

In response to the new policy, Greenpeace agreed to call off its five-year old Kleercut campaign, which it launched in 2004 after initial meetings with the company failed to spur changes to Kimberly-Clark’s sourcing practices. Though the environmental group declared the Kleercut campaign “case closed,” Scott Paul, Greenpeace Forest Campaign Director, hinted the fight was far from over.

“Hey Proctor & Gamble (maker of Charmin and Bounty) and Georgia Pacific (maker of Angel Soft and Brawny), you reading this?” Paul wrote in a blog Wednesday.

The development is another victory for the outspoken environmental group with a long history of activism aimed at changing corporate, government and consumer behavior. In the last few weeks, its efforts led to two high-profile companies -- Nike and Timberland -- declaring their ban on buying leather originating in the Amazon region.

It recently scaled Mount Rushmore with a banner aimed at encouraging action on climate change at last month’s G8 summit. Greenpeace is also engaged in a campaign to get retailers such as Trader Joe’s to clean up their sourcing practices of threatened seafood. Last month it staged a protest at the Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters of HP to chide the IT company about reneging on a promise to phase out toxic materials in its computers.

“It’s imperative that we (and YOU!) hold companies accountable for their public commitments,” Mike Gaworecki, Greanpeace USA web editor, wrote in TreeHugger this week defending its activism. “Greenpeace is known as an organization that will stand up and hold bad actors accountable, and the direct action at HP’s headquarters was a part of that proud tradition.”

Kleenex - CC license by Robert S. Donovan/Flickr