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Greenpeace and Kimberly-Clark Twitter Chat Follow-Up

Five years ago, Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace established a framework to work toward long-term solutions to conserve forest resources. On their "wood" anniversary, they hosted a first-of-its-kind Twitter chat at #ForestSolutions to discuss how they worked past their tensions towards a productive and meaningful partnership. 

The event was facilitated by TriplePundit's Founder, Nick Aster, and Journalist and Social Media Facilitator, Aman Singh.

The chat's distinguished leaders included:

  • Peggy Ward (@PeggyatKC), Kimberly-Clark’s sustainability strategy leader for North America consumer tissue

  • Richard Brooks (@RBGreenpeace), forest campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada

  • Rolf Skar (@RolfSkarGP), forest campaign director for Greenpeace USA
The hour-long Twitter chat addressed many questions raised by our participants, but time was still too short! Here are your remaining questions, answered by the panelists themselves.

  • From @Future500 & @JenBoynton: How did #stakeholderengagment play an active role in your collaboration? and in sustainability reporting? #forestsolutions
Kimberly-Clark:  Our work with Greenpeace has helped us to realize the value of collaborating with stakeholders with diverse perspectives and expertise.  As a result, we continue to engage with a variety of stakeholders such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Stakeholder engagement also helps inform both our strategies and our reporting.  You can learn more about that in our report itself.

  • From @susancamberis: Has KC done any work to connect consumer and employment branding, relative to this initiative?#forestsolutions
Kimberly-Clark: One way that we connect with consumers is through our use of the FSC label on tissue products marketed around the world.  This provides an opportunity for consumers to make purchase decisions in favor of responsible forest management. We also share our progress against our fiber goals with employees (and prospective employees) through our intranet, messages from leaders and social channels.

  • From @bizsocially: What about finding employment for people who used to cut forests illegally (in dev countries) anyone working on that?
Greenpeace: It is important to underscore that Kimberly-Clark has done a great job avoiding buying wood fiber in places where there is a high risk of illegal logging.  And, in general, illegal logging in the tropics – which often generally targets a particularly valuable species or several species – does not end up in paper or tissue products.  It is much more profitable for illegal wood to end up in dimensional wood products; things like flooring or decking.  Sustainable wood production does not have to be at odds with livelihoods or jobs.  In many cases, having a responsible buyer of wood like Kimberly-Clark can help solve social conflict issues and provide stability to what can otherwise be a boom-and-bust cycle of resource exploitation.

  • From @DRMeyer1: Is there an auditing component of the collaborative partnership to verify forest stewardship practices?
Kimberly-Clark: Most K-C pulp suppliers have FSC and/or FSC-controlled wood certification which require annual audits. We conduct routine forestry assessments of all of our fiber suppliers. Kimberly-Clark: We don’t have a formal for-profit recycling business, but we do focus on recycling or repurposing our manufacturing waste. We are also piloting several recycling programs designed to support our customers in collecting waste.

  • From @dogwoodalliance: How does their movement on recycled fiber compare to alternative fibers?
Kimberly-Clark: We are exploring several non-wood fiber alternatives, including  purpose grown fibers that make efficient  use of land such as bamboo, and "agricultural waste" fibers such as wheat straw.   We are very early in our innovation journey compared to the well-developed technology for recycled fiber.  K-C’s current annual use of alternative fiber is only a few thousand metric tons. On the other hand, K-C uses over 950,000 metric tons of recycled fiber annually, which accounts for over 33 percent of our total fiber use in global tissue products.

Greenpeace: It is a bit apples and oranges since one (recycled fiber) has been in K-C products for years on a very large scale and the other (alternative fibers) are in start-up mode.  A lot of companies are looking into alternatives to wood fiber, and in terms of big corporations, K-C has been on the cutting edge.  The K-C announcement that it would reduce by half its use of wood from natural forests by 2025 came after the August 5, 2009 policy that ended the Kleercut campaign.  So, this was a good example of the company taking initiative and building on its previous commitments for the sake of the planet and its bottom-line.  Since industrial-scale use of things like bamboo in North America is relatively new, we are all learning.  Things like the company’s life cycle assessment of alternative fibers is advancing our shared understanding and helping to point the best way forward.

Kimberly-Clark: We have time bound commitments for the use of environmentally-preferred fiber which includes FSC-certified and recycled fiber in our global tissue products. Our future targets can be found in our Fiber Procurement Policyand our performance against targets are reported annually.

Greenpeace: We review what K-C is buying versus their targets regularly.  Another way we determine success is how the company deals with potential problems we flag for them.  For example, if there’s social conflict brewing in a region from which they source, we want to see the company proactively address that problem, cut contracts with out-of-compliance suppliers, etc.  To date, the K-C team has been good about rolling up their sleeves and working on solutions.

  • From @troywiseman: Is KC seriously considering verticality integrating again, rather than simply purchasing certified and sustainable material?
Kimberly-Clark: No, we have closed or spun off all of our former pulp mills to focus on our core consumer and professional businesses.

  • From @simone_Emilie: Any collab on #reforestation #conservation for #forestsolutions part of #CSR partnership?
Kimberly-Clark: We have partnered with Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation and WWF on a number of reforestation and conservation efforts.

Greenpeace:  Greenpeace tends not to do a lot of project-based work (things like tree-planting or managing restoration projects).  So, it’s not a big part of our partnership, but it is something K-C has worked with other NGOs on.

  • From @tekclean: what about energy use? Paper making is very energy intensive!
Kimberly-Clark: As part of our comprehensive “Sustainability 2015” program, we strive to improve our energy efficiency and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions every year. For more detailed information on our energy reduction progress, see our 2013 Sustainability Report.

Greenpeace: @tekclean makes a good point.  While companies like K-C invest in efficiencies, it is important for us all to support the continued development of climate-friendly energy sources.  You can read more about the Greenpeace vision of a “Energy [r]Evolution” here.

  • From @whatsNyourpapr: R there ways @KCCorp educates about the value of FSC label, how 2 recognize, why it is preferred?
Kimberly-Clark: We continue to work with FSC-US and FSC-International on brand awareness. K-C Professional works with its business partners directly and through trade shows to raise FSC awareness. We were also the first away-from-home towel and tissue products company in North America to seek and obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certification for a broad range of towel and tissue products and now over 97% of our K-C Professional towel and tissue codes are FSC certified. K-C also developed a partnership with WWF in Australia on “Love Your Forests” campaignto raise awareness of FSC with consumers.

  • From @duncandorset: Are KC non-woven products aka flushable wipes blocking sewer systems and causing env pollution? Why do we need them?
Kimberly-Clark: We make a number of cleansing cloths that are safe to be flushed. However, we also make wipes that should not be flushed. Kimberly-Clark produces flushable cleansing cloths under several brands: Cottonelle, Scott Naturals, Pull-Ups, U by Kotex and Poise. We also make baby wipe products under the Huggies brand that are not flushable. It’s important to read the label on all wipe products and use as directed. We subject our flushable wipes to a variety of tests to evaluate their compatibility with wastewater conveyance and treatment systems. Visit our website to see video of the testing and to learn more.

Greenpeace: In general, we think the world could do with fewer throw-away products.  However, if millions of people want to buy them, it is important that what goes into them is sustainable.  There are times when Greenpeace and K-C see things differently when it comes to disposables, but that does not get in the way of our collaboration to ensure the fiber they are buying is helping keep forests standing.

  • From @milindamartin:  re A7a: how often did you meet, and how high up the @KCCorp org was in the room?
Kimberly-Clark: Initially we met twice a year and now we meet annually. Presidents of K-C’s Family Care and Professional tissue businesses regularly attend those meetings. Greenpeace has also met with Tom Falk, K-C’s Chairman and CEO.

Greenpeace: Support from the highest level in companies is key.  If sustainability efforts are only being pushed by well-meaning staff, but the CEO is not bought in, they can fail over time, or just plain not deliver.  K-C has demonstrated that its leadership understands the value of its sustainability initiatives and the company’s engagement with stakeholders like Greenpeace.

  • From @future500: What industry lessons can be learned by the success of @KCCorp and @greenpeaceusa's collaboration?
Kimberly-Clark: We really value trust at K-C and we definitely weren’t ready to see that value in Greenpeace at first.  But, we learned collaboration is always better than confrontation. The success of the relationship hinges on both parties being willing to actively listen to the other’s viewpoint and needs.  There is almost always a common ground and once you have identified it, it provides a foundation to build trust and seek solutions that are beneficial to both parties.

Greenpeace: Companies need to throw away some of the outdated ideas that used to inform how to “handle” NGOs like Greenpeace.  We still hear people (often expensive marketing or legal advisors) tell companies to ignore us, never trust us, that we’re only out for money, etc.  This is terrible advice.  The age when executives could put their heads in the sand about sustainability is over.  Transparency, collaboration and innovation are what is required moving forward.

  • From @mary_mazzoni: Any collaboration on reforestation and community development in pulp and paper producing nations?
Kimberly-Clark: Yes. One example is the Sustainable Forest Mosaic Initiative with Conservation International.  This five year collaboration involved 3 plantation forestry companies and 2 other conservation organizations, all focused on reforestation and community development in the Atlantic Forest area of Brazil.

Greenpeace:  It’s not just the tropics.  Greenpeace and K-C have worked together to support community and conservation planning initiatives in the Canadian Boreal Forest, for example. That includes looking for opportunities to help diversify the economies of communities traditionally dependent on resource extraction.


Thanks again for your participation! Please be sure to join our next Twitter chat coming up with Heineken later this month! 

Marissa Rosen headshotMarissa Rosen

Marissa is the Owner of Climate Social, LLC. She holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Mizzou and a master's in environmental studies from UPenn. 

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