Last week WWF and Kimberly-Clark (the maker of Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers, and VIVA paper towels), announced the paper consumer products giant’s expansion of its involvement in curbing illegal logging and preserving threatened forests around the world. For WWF, the agreement allows the NGO to work with local people to conserve forests for both people and wildlife that rely on such lands. Kimberly-Clark, on the other hand, takes another step towards its goal to have 100 percent of its virgin wood fiber sourced from certified vendors by 2015.
The agreement was inked at a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) meeting in Sabah, the Malaysian state on Borneo that lies in the middle of a region that has been affected by mass commercial logging–much of which occurs illegally. Borneo and the Indonesian island of Sumatra host some of the most ecologically diverse forests in the world. Those forests also boast some of the world’s last few remaining Sumatran tigers, rhinos, Pygmy elephants and orangutans. Meanwhile the forests work as Southeast Asia’s lungs and provide fresh water to millions of people.
Under the terms of the partnership, Kimberly-Clark will broaden its involvement in the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), a WWF program that works to stop illegal logging and preserve the world’s most threatened forests. Kimberly-Clark will also ramp up its FSC-certified pulp and paper sourcing, which is set to hit 50 percent by the end of this year.
For GFTN, Kimberly-Clark serves as an effective stakeholder. GTFN is an organization that already involves over 300 governments, companies, NGOs, and local entrepreneurs in more than 30 countries. Approximately 30 million acres of natural forest are cut down to satisfy the growing need for wood and paper products. The perfect storm of increased illegal logging and lagging supplies of credibly certified wood makes deforestation an even more pressing issue.
Many carbon experts point out that deforestation has a huge role in global pollution and often has just an equal, if not higher, impact than emissions from transportation or industry. With a Kleenex box in just about every household or office, Kimberly-Clark has an opportunity to spur innovation and goad its competitors into action to source responsibly sourced paper. Nevertheless, some critics will yawn at this announcement, and they have a point. Virgin sources of wood cannot be the only source for those convenient paper products in the long term; increased recycled content and alternatives to wood-based paper, have got to be considered. Nevertheless, a step taken is better than one not taken at all.
Leon Kaye writes about sustainability issues around the world and corporate social responsibility. The Editor of GreenGoPost.com, he also contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.