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Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace: A Corporate Campaign Success Story

| Thursday August 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments

kleercut-case-closed-430px-300x181By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

After years of being worn down by Greenpeace’s arsenal of corporate campaign tools,  Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands,  announced yesterday stronger fiber sourcing standards that will increase conservation of forests globally and will make the company a leader for sustainably produced tissue products.

Greenpeace, which worked with Kimberly-Clark on its revised standards, announced that it will end its “Kleercut” campaign, which focused on the company and its brands.

Corporations often need an extra push before they will begin to seriously address sustainability issues. The Kleercut campaign is a great success story of using media and the marketplace to associate a brand with bad environmental practices, ultimately moving Kimberly-Clark to change its ways. And Greenpeace even managed to ultimately gain respect from Kimberly-Clark in the end.

“We commend Greenpeace for helping us develop more sustainable standards.” said Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark Vice President of Environment, Energy, Safety, Quality and Sustainability.

Details of the deal

As posted on the Greenpeace blog, here is a summary of the deal:

  • Kimberly-Clark now has a goal of obtaining 100 percent of the wood fiber for its products — including its flagship brand, Kleenex — from environmentally responsible sources (that means recycled or FSC).
  • By the end of 2011, the company will get out of the Boreal Forest and only buy pulp that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) -certified.
  • The policy pledges to protect the integrity of High Conservation Value Forests and will keep Kimberly-Clark and its suppliers out of Endangered Forests.

The big winner is ancient forests

“Today, ancient forests like the Boreal Forest have won,” said Richard Brooks, Greenpeace Canada Forest Campaign Coordinator. “This new relationship between Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace will promote forest conservation, responsible forest management, and recycled fiber as far and wide as possible.”

By the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber – representing an estimated 600,000 tonnes – is either recycled or FSC certified, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2007 levels.

Grist.org interviewed Michael Conroy, an expert on grassroots campaigns. “This is a huge victory for global forests, the FSC, and Greenpeace,” he replied. “Kimberly-Clark is the world’s largest manufacturer of tissue paper products. The nature of the commitments, the specific timetables provided, and the Kimberly-Clark agreement to report back regularly on what proportion of the fiber sourced for its tissue has come from recycled and FSC-certified sources makes this a very credible commitment.”

Conroy also pointed out that the conclusion of Kleercut, which “used print media, social networking, YouTube videos, and incredibly creative ways to wear down Kimberly-Clark resistance, shows that the new tools for communicating with consumers are bringing even more power to civil society as we seek to transform the social and environmental practices of the world’s largest corporations.”

Will this announcement challenge the industry as a whole?

Corporate campaigns typically focus on a single name-brand market leader that can serve as a high-profile target. The target in this case, Kimberly-Clark, is not directly responsible for devastating old-growth forests, but targetting the logging companies directly would be difficult. It tends to be more effective to target those downstream in the process, who have the purchasing power to push changes down the supply chain.

Will this announcement set a new business best practice and challenge the industry as a whole to transform?

“These revised standards are proof that when responsible companies and Greenpeace come together, the results can be good for business and great for the planet,” said Scott Paul, Greenpeace USA Forest Campaign Director. “Kimberly-Clark’s efforts are a challenge to its competitors. I hope other companies pay close attention.”

Proctor & Gamble, maker of Charmin and Bounty, and Georgia Pacific, maker of Angel Soft and Brawny, have you taken a closer look at your fiber sourcing standards yet?

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Deborah Fleischer, founder and president of Green Impact, works with mid-sized companies to launch green initiatives that encourage innovation and grow market share. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder partnerships and written communications. You can follow her occasional tweet at GreenImpact.


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