Kimberly-Clark Moves Toward Environmentally Innovative Products

Consumer products giant and the world’s largest tissue product manufacturer Kimberly-Clark announced it set a goal to generate 25% of net sales from "environmentally innovative" products by 2015.

Also during that timeframe, the company’s targets include 25% reduction in water use; 100% certified fiber; 5% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; and zero manufacturing waste to landfill.

Kimberly-Clark, which makes household brands Kleenex, Scott and Huggies, says the 2015 goals are the company’s most ambitious and comprehensive sustainability strategy to date.

The company developed its first "environmentally innnovative" products in 2009, after being criticized for many years because of its unsustainable forestry practices – making toilet paper and other paper goods from clearcut forests.

Examples are the Scott Naturals line which has varying amounts of recycled content: toilet paper (40%), paper towels (60%), napkins (80%) and tubeless Scott toilet paper rolls.

The packaging for Scott Naturals is made from 20% post-consumer recycled plastic, and the cardboard rolls are 100% recycled fiber.

K-C first set environmental improvement goals with a five-year time horizon in 1994. Those programs were primarily focused on environmental performance at K-C’s operations. Now the company says it’s addressing a wider framework of sustainability through its People, Planet and Products program.

"Kimberly-Clark’s Sustainability 2015 is a holistic way of weaving sustainable business practice and mindset into everything we do as an integral component of our Global Business Plan," says Suhas Apte, Vice President, Global Sustainability.

Other 2015 targets include:

  • Socially focused programs in all K-C communities
  • 100% compliance to K-C social standards for contract manufacturers and top-tier suppliers
  • 20% reduction in packaging environmental impact 

"We believe our Sustainability 2015 goals and focus areas will continue to be a point of differentiation for Kimberly-Clark and help deliver tangible value in social, environmental and financial benefits for our businesses and our planet," Apte says.

K-C made the announcement at the Corporate Eco Forum annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The Forum is an invitation-only membership organization for Fortune 500 companies that demonstrate a serious commitment to sustainability as a strategic business issue.

Sustainable Forestry

In 2009, after a 5-year Kleercut campaign, Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace signed a historic agreement in which the company committed to stop buying pulp for its tissue products from Canada’s boreal forests, North America’s largest ancient forest.

The campaign ended when Kimberly-Clark released a strong paper policy. The policy lays out the company’s commitment to buying pulp from FSC-certified forests (Forest Stewardship Council) and from recycled sources. It’s goal was for 100% of its fiber to come from environmentally responsible sources.

Today, 98% of its fiber comes from responsible sources, but only 28% comes from FSC-certified forests, whose standards are accepted as best practices worldwide –  while 33% comes from forests certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a paper industry certification.

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