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Kimberly-Clark and WWF Launch Branding Partnership to Halt Deforestation

By Leon Kaye

This week, the personal care company Kimberly-Clark and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced a campaign designed to raise consumer awareness about the benefits of sustainable forestry and risks of deforestation. The launch of this initiative caps an eight-year relationship between the Dallas area-based consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant and one of the world’s largest conservation organizations.

Beginning this month, retailers and consumers will see the famous WWF panda logo on Scott-branded paper towels. Additional brands that will  sport this logo include Kleenex, Viva and Cottonelle. These paper towel, facial tissue and toilet paper brands are already certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.

Kimberly-Clark has long claimed that it has been a sustainability leader within the pulp and paper products sector. In 2003, it started to require third-party fiber certification from companies within its supply chain. Three years later, it began developing a closer working relationship with FSC. WWF then came on board as another non-profit partner of Kimberly-Clark’s when the company joined the Global Forest and Trade Network.

“We are proud that environmental groups, such as WWF and FSC, recognize us as a market leader for responsible fiber sourcing and forest protection,” wrote a Kimberly-Clark spokesperson via an email exchange with TriplePundit. “We are also proud that our leadership has moved other manufacturers in our industry toward higher levels of certification.”

CPG companies, including Kimberly-Clark, have long struggled with meeting consumers’ expectations that these companies become more sustainable, while their shopping behavior has indicated that they are often unwilling to pay a premium for such goods. The trick for the industry has been to scale sustainable forestry in order to keep costs down yet meet the increased demand for sustainable wood fiber. On that point, one of the company’s main pulp and paper products competitors, Procter & Gamble, has worked with its suppliers and conservation groups to increase the acreage of sustainable forests across the U.S. South, from the Carolinas to states along the southern Mississippi River.

To that end, as part of this alignment with WWF, Kimberly-Clark has promised to commit $4 million in order to further the NGO’s global efforts to conserve the world’s forests. The exact allocation of funds has not yet been announced, but a Kimberly-Clark spokesperson told 3p that the Southeast region of the U.S., often described as “the world’s wood basket” is an important area of focus for both WWF and Kimberly-Clark, and this region will be included in WWF’s continued forest conservation work.

According to Kimberly-Clark, this latest development will strengthen the relationship it has with WWF and other environmental groups. “As one of the world’s largest buyers of market pulp, Kimberly-Clark knows that protecting our forests is critical to addressing climate change, conserving terrestrial biodiversity and ensuring a healthy supply chain,” explained a company spokesperson.

One of WWF’s long-term goals is to ensure Zero Net Deforestation and Forest Degradation (ZNDD) as standard practice for the world’s forests by 2020. “WWF knows it cannot achieve this goal alone, so it works with numerous sectors to do so,” wrote Kimberly-Clark’s representative to 3p. “One is the business sector, especially businesses that source materials, such as wood, pulp and rubber, from forests to create their products.”

In turn, WWF’s forestry experts work closely with these companies, including Kimberly-Clark, to develop more responsible sourcing policies, identify and mitigate sourcing risks and share best practices that can be applied to other companies and industries.

This work with WWF is one important component of Kimberly-Clark’s sustainability strategy. In addition to the commitment to harness innovation in order to reduce its paper products’ overall impact on forests, the company says it has four additional goals it seeks to achieve by 2022. Such efforts include additional improvement of social and environmental impacts across its supply chain; expand its zero-waste and recycling performance; reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent from its 2005 baseline levels; and improve the well-being of 25 million citizens worldwide over the next five years.

Image credits: Kimberley Clark

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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