Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Kimberly-Clark Releases Sustainability Report


Kimberly-Clark is a big company with well-known brands like Scott, Depends and Huggies. It has also made some real strides in sustainability, as its latest annual sustainability report shows.

The company achieved a 26.4 percent reduction in water use in manufacturing in 2013, beating its 2015 goal of 25 percent. The report attributes the reduction to a more efficient manufacturing footprint, water conservation programs, and upgraded water and wastewater systems.

All totaled, Kimberly-Clark completed six major water reduction projects last year. For example, it made upgrades to the wastewater system at its Northfleet Mill that allows more than half of the wastewater to be recycled and reused.

When it comes to sourcing, Kimberly-Clark has also set lofty goals. The target is to source 100 percent of its wood fiber from suppliers who have achieved third-party certification of their forestry activities by 2015. Clearly, the company can meet those lofty goals as it met its target in 2012. A 2016 target is to achieve 100 percent chain of custody certification. All of the Kimberly-Clark tissue mills in North America and Europe are already chain of custody certified, along with about 50 percent of its mills in other regions. By 2025, the company plans to source 90 percent of the fiber in its tissue products from environmentally-preferred sources, including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood fiber, recycled fiber and sustainable alternative fibers. It has already sourced 71.7 percent from environmentally preferred sources.

Reducing waste sent to landfill

Generating waste is a natural part of the manufacturing process, but Kimberly-Clark wants to reduce the manufacturing waste it sends to landfill.

The target for 2013 was to have 85 percent of its manufacturing waste diverted from landfill. Unfortunately, it only achieved of 81.6, but it was an increase from 78 percent in 2012. It is on track to “be near 90 percent landfill free by the end of 2014,” according to the report. The goal for 2015 is to be 100 percent landfill free.

One way the company is striving to meet its goal is by reducing the amount of waste it makes in production. Another way is by developing relationships with recyclers. Its internal scrap sales team (KimCycle) generated $28 million sales in the U.S. and the company's health care operations in Mexico in 2013. Its Epping, South Africa operations sold 572 tons of diaper trim to a recycler that produces plastic materials such as park benches. Recycling saves money, as the monetary savings for selling the waste was over $200,000.

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Kimberly-Clark has developed a corporate-wide GHG inventory of the six major GHGs and reports progress annually based on detailed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protocols. The target is to reduce GHG absolute emissions from manufacturing by 5 percent from a 2010 baseline by 2015. It achieved a 3 percent reduction in 2013 in absolute GHG emissions at its manufacturing facilities from 2012 and a 6.4 percent reduction from 2010.

Employing renewable energy and reducing energy use

Kimberly-Clark employs renewable energy in a number of locations, including biofuels from wood waste and landfill gas in the U.S., Switzerland, Brazil and Thailand. It has solar installations in the U.S. and Italy, and cogeneration at four manufacturing facilities. Its newest cogeneration project is at its facility in Millicent, Australia which produces over 90 percent of the energy needed for the facility. In addition to renewable energy, the company has energy reduction initiatives. From 2012 to 2013, its manufacturing facilities reduced energy over consumption by 50 percent.

Image courtesy of Kimberly-Clark

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman