We’ve been covering the ongoing battle between tissue maker Kimberly-Clark and the environmental community for awhile now. Finally, Kimberly-Clark has given in and agreed to source 100% of its wood fiber for tissue products from sustainable sources. This is a big deal not just because the tissue maker manufacturers popular brands like Cottonelle and Kleenex, but also because the drama behind the decision.
In a nutshell: Kimberly-Clark sources between 14% and 22% of its pulp from forests containing 200-year-old trees. Greenpeace launched its Kleercut protest campaign five years ago, shamed the company recently in its Tissue Buying Guide, and eventually even The New York Times caught on to Kimberly-Clark’s history. Kimberly-Clark budged ever so slightly by agreeing to manufacture a line of recycled products, saying that it wouldn’t extend the practice to more of its lines because “The lower quality and higher price perceptions of products containing recycled fiber has limited consumer acceptance.”
That was only four months ago, but Kimberly-Clark has now agreed to source 40% of its North American tissue fiber–600,000 tons–from recycled or FSC-certified sources. By the end of 2011, the company will stop buying non-FSC certified fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest–North America’s biggest old growth forest.
So what happened? Essentially, Greenpeace harassed Kimberly-Clark into submission by dispensing information on its practices, protesting at Kimberly-Clark buildings and at various events, sending over 30,000 emails, and persuading over 760 companies to stop buying from the tissue maker until it changed its policies. When the campaign started, not a single Kimberly-Clark product contained recycled fiber.
Companies may complain that Greenpeace’s tactics are unhelpful and ineffective, but in the long run, the organization has the power to enact change. So don’t expect them to stop fingerpainting corporate headquarters any time soon.