Kimberly-Clark Goes Full Circle on Zero Waste, Sustainable Sourcing

kimberly clark, pulp and paper, diaper recycling, huggies, kleenex, recycling, zero waste, waste diversion, water stewardship, supply chainKimberly-Clark released its 2011 sustainability report yesterday. The paper products giant, the brands of which include Huggies, Kleenex and Kotex, set several sustainability goals for 2015 and updates its stakeholders on the company’s progress on environmental and social issues. While paper has clearly been the low-hanging fruit when it comes to environmental sustainability and yes, recycling, there still exists plenty of room for improvement across countless supply chains. And although paper products undoubtedly provide comfort and convenience, what can be flushed down the toilet or tossed in the trash bin after a single use takes decades to regrow–not to mention the enormous amounts of fuel, chemicals and water required to manufacture all those tissues, paper towels and nappies. Companies in the pulp and paper and related industries are under the microscope, and most are replying in kind.

Kimberly-Clark rolled out its 2015 goals last year. So far metrics the company has reached on water stewardship, energy efficiency, waste diversion and supply chain compliance include the following milestones:

Certified suppliers: With consumers increasingly demanding paper products that come from responsibly managed forests, Kimberly-Clark claims that goal is in the bag with 99.9 percent of paper fiber coming from certified suppliers. That goal was set in 2007 and reached 98 percent within two years.

Environmentally innovative products: Companies like HP and GE love to tout their “innovation,” and Kimberly-Clark is no exception. The company’s ecoLOGICAL portfolio accounts for 13 percent of the company’s overall net sales. Depending on what one’s definition of “innovation” is, those products include a cleansing wipe on sale in the UK, several products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and Huggies Pure and Natural diapers.

Zero Waste: Across the pond, Kimberly-Clark’s personal care division in Europe reached the company’s 2015 goal of zero waste. Environmental performance improved in Brazil, too, with a reduction of 30 metric tons of solid waste sent to landfills last year.

Diaper Composting: Recycled fashion, sustainably designed cell phones and the recycled plastic cases that contain them make environmental stewardship sexy. Diaper composting is a complete 180 degree turn from the sustainability-is-cool index, and is not too high on the public relations “wow-em” list. But to Kimberly-Clark’s credit, a partnership has been underway in New Zealand and in fact, is expanding. More locations in additional countries are under consideration and the initiative made a top 10 “poo-cycling” list for 2011. And when Kimberly-Clark brings together the sustainability journalists and mommy bloggers when the first U.S. diaper composting facility opens, whenever, if ever, that occurs, I want to be there.

Of course Kimberly-Clark’s agenda is not solely limited to environmental programs. The company is leaning on suppliers to adhere to the company’s code of conduct for corporate responsibility and human rights. And philanthropy still is strong with $32 million in donations given last year. Kimberly-Clark’s actions demonstrate that corporate social responsibility is not just about public relations gold stars and patting themselves on the back. Sustainability, in this $19 billion company’s case, makes strategic business sense in a world of diminishing, and more expensive, resources.

Leon Kaye, based in California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.

Image courtesy Kimberly-Clark.


kimberly clark, pulp and paper, diaper recycling, huggies, kleenex, recycling, zero waste, waste diversion, water stewardship, supply chain

Leon Kaye

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He is currently Executive Editor of 3p, and is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). He's traveled worldwide and has lived in Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

2 responses

  1. Kimberly Clark Sucks In Recycling Practices.  I Was Instructed By Management To Throw Chemicals Waste From The Making Of Tissue Paper At The Fullerton, CA Facility.  At First We Needed An Enviromental Company To Take The Product To Safely Dispose Of The Chemical, Then With So Much Chemical Waste Stored In The Building, We Were Told To Throw It In The Regular Tarash Bins, And When Anyone Spoke Of It, They Were Quick to Change The Subject.  It Was A New Chemical Named “ICON”, Which Made Kleenex The Softest Product On The Market.  Everyday We Were Throwing Over A Ton Of This Chemical Waste Into Barrels For Safe Disposal, But More Than Half Would Go Into The Dumpster, And It Was On All Paper Not Just Kleenex.

  2. Kimberly-Clark has an officer at the VP level on the marketing team that is the epitome of unethical. This man lies on his resume, has unethical dealings with partners, and is a home wrecker to homes with babies. The company knows it and protects him and pays him gobs to sell diapers! Disgraceful!

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