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Kimberly-Clark Launches New Science-Based GHG Emission Goals

Kimberly-Clark announced new targets for greenhouse gas emissions approved by the Science Based Targets initiative and aligned with the Paris Accords.
By Maggie Kohn

Kimberly-Clark, known for household brands such as Huggies, Kleenex, Cottonelle and Depend, today announced expanded new targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative and aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Targets are considered “science-based” if they align with what is necessary to limit global warming to well-below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, according to the latest climate science.

Set against a 10-year window, Kimberly-Clark’s new goals aim to reduce the carbon footprint of the company’s operations and supply chain by 50 percent for absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions (direct and indirect) from its operations by 2030. The commitment also includes a 20 percent reduction in absolute Scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services and end-of-life treatment of sold products. Both targets are based on a new 2015 base year.

“Setting and achieving aggressive climate goals has been part of Kimberly-Clark’s sustainability journey for 25 years,” Lisa Morden, vice president of safety, sustainability and occupational health at Kimberly-Clark, told 3p. “But we realized that we needed to do more to know if we were really doing our part against climate change and to ensure our resiliency going forward.”

The company, which sells its brands in more than 175 countries and regions, worked for several years with its long-time partners WWF and the World Resources Institute to establish the systems and processes to be able to set and report against science-based targets.

The hardest part of the journey was “beginning to estimate and measure our footprint outside our four walls,” Morden told us. But achieving the company’s ambitious new targets will surely be even harder. Morden said the company is focused on areas such as land use, renewable materials, transportation efficiency, and partnerships with key suppliers, as well as reducing its own energy consumption and using more renewable energy in its operations.

Future expansion to include forest carbon footprint

Kimberly-Clark also announced that it is working to establish a baseline of its forest carbon footprint by measuring the biogenic carbon impacts of the company’s fiber mix across virgin wood fiber, recycled fiber and sustainable alternative non-wood fibers. Once established, this baseline will enable forest land use emissions to be integrated into future Scope 3 GHG emissions reduction objectives.

“We cannot fully address climate change without also addressing how we think about, use and account for forests,” said David Chaffin, responsible materials sourcing program leader at Kimberly-Clark. “Our efforts to reduce our use of natural forest fiber from high-carbon value forests and increase our use of environmentally preferred fibers such as alternative non-wood and recycled fibers will continue to be important levers for lowering our forest carbon footprint.”

In her discussion with 3p, Morden said she hopes this area may also be an opportunity for collaboration with other companies. “We are looking for those connection points with our peers. System change will require collaboration to create the interventions needed to drive meaningful shifts.”

Investing in sustainable energy

In its 2019 Global Sustainability Report, due to be published in early July but shared in advance with TriplePundit, Kimberly-Clark points to several new projects already underway to help achieve its 2030 goals.

They include new, state-of-the-art Combined Heat and Power (CHP) cogeneration plants at manufacturing sites in the United States, Colombia and Peru, with a fourth (in Pennsylvania) expected to come online this year. Together, these units will be capable of producing 88 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity.

Through reuse of waste heat from the generating process, the company says it will be able to produce more than 200,000 pounds per hour of process steam that can be used for manufacturing. It anticipates the sites will account for aggregated GHG emissions reductions of approximately 100,000 megatons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e).

The company  has made similar investments in solar and wind projects.

It has completed photovoltaic (PV) solar installations at four of its manufacturing and distribution sites. Combined, the installations will be capable of generating 3.9 MWh of green electricity and contributing 3,150 MTCO2e emissions reduction, the company says.

The company has also invested in utility-scale virtual power purchase agreements (VPPA) with three wind power projects in Texas and Oklahoma. The company expects its third utility-scale VPPA wind project to deliver approximately 670,000 MWh of renewable energy annually starting this year and to account for 100 percent of the electricity purchased by its family care manufacturing facilities in North America.

The Texas-based company is not alone; many of its peers are also investing in renewable energy sources. Procter & Gamble already purchases 100 percent renewable electricity in the United States, Canada and Western Europe, while Unilever says 100 percent of its energy will come from renewable sources by 2030. Unilever, in fact, has gone one step further, announcing it will directly support the generation of more renewable energy than it needs, making the surplus available to the markets and communities in which it operates.

For Kimberly-Clark, net zero is within sight

While it may not be the first in its sector to announce science-based targets, Kimberly-Clark says it is committed to making ongoing progress. In fact, Morden said a net-zero ambition – similar to Unilever’s plan for net zero emissions for all of its products by 2039 – may be in the company’s future.

“We are just beginning to understand what net-zero solutions might look like," Morden told us. "It’s a big stretch for companies, but as we go forward, we’ll continue to be aggressive and stretch.”

Image credit: Johannes Plenio/Pixabay

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Maggie Kohn is excited to be a contributor to Triple Pundit to illustrate how business can achieve positive change in the world while supporting long-term growth. Maggie worked for more than 20 years at the biopharma giant Merck & Co., Inc., leading corporate responsibility and social business initiatives. She currently writes, speaks and consults on corporate responsibility and social impact when she is not busy fostering kittens for her local animal shelter. Click here to learn more.

Read more stories by Maggie Kohn