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June 2005 -- Kimberly-Clark is cutting down ancient forests, such as Canada's boreal forest, to make disposable tissue paper products including Kleenex brand products. By manufacturing toilet paper, facial tissue, napkins and paper towels from freshly cut trees instead of post-consumer recycled fiber, the company has earned a reputation as a major destroyer of our planet's remaining natural forests.

The World's Largest Tissue Product Manufacturer

Kimberly-Clark is a $13.6 billion company, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with offices, factories and mills in 38 countries. Its products are sold in 150 countries. The largest tissue product manufacturer in the world, Kimberly-Clark produces the well-known Kleenex brand facial tissue, toilet paper and napkins in Canada and the United States, and Scott, Viva and Cottonelle tissue products in the United States. Kimberly-Clark also produces an extensive line of commercial tissue products for businesses, institutions and governments. Kimberly-Clark is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol: KMB).

Kimberly-Clark Uses Virgin Fiber Straight from Forests

In North America, less than 19 percent of the pulp that Kimberly-Clark uses as raw material for its disposable tissue products (toilet paper, facial tissue, napkins and paper towels) comes from recycled sources and much of this recycled pulp is used in its commercial line of products. In fact, many of its brands sold in grocery stores, such as Kleenex and Scott (in the U.S. only), are made from 100 percent virgin tree fiber. In 2003, Kimberly-Clark required 2,811,000 short tons of virgin fiber to produce its tissue paper products globally.

Canada's Boreal Forest Pays the Price

Canada's boreal forest is an ancient forest that stretches across the country. Mostly public land, the forest is one of the last remaining intact forests in the world. The boreal forest is home to hundreds of wide-ranging wildlife species, including moose, lynx, grizzly and brown bears, wolves and caribou, a species at risk. Eagles, hawks, owls, 30 percent of North American songbirds and 40 percent of North American waterfowl nest in its forests and wetlands. It is a diverse and awe-inspiring landscape of granite outcrops, lakes, rivers and marshes interspersed with pine, spruce, fir and poplar forests. The forest also supports a rich cultural legacy. Over 80 percent of Canada's First Nations and aboriginal peoples' communities are in the boreal forest.

Kimberly-Clark buys virgin fiber from logging companies operating in the boreal forest in Ontario and Alberta. Not only is this logging done through massive clearcuts that harm the environment, Kimberly-Clark is contributing to the growing demand for pulp from Canada's boreal, increasing the pressure to log parts of the boreal forest still not allocated for forestry. Kimberly-Clark has the opportunity to lessen this pressure by increasing the amount of post-consumer recycled content in all its products.

Disposable Products Should Not Mean 'Disposable' Forests

Kimberly-Clark claims to be an environmental leader, but its lack of a commitment to using post-consumer recycled content in its products and to sustainable forestry are gaping holes in its environmental record. Kimberly-Clark persists in using virgin fiber for its tissue products when other companies have shown that commercially viable alternatives exist. For example, Cascades, based in Montreal, is the fourth largest tissue product manufacturer in North America. Cascades meets 96 percent of its pulp requirements with recycled fiber. The company has committed to meet the remaining 4 percent with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) eco-certified pulp by 2007. Seventh Generation, based in Vermont, sells its 100-percent-recycled consumer tissue products throughout North America, as does Atlantic Packaging, based in Toronto.

Public Reaction

Last November, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace launched a public education campaign to help large purchasers of tissue products, as well as our members and others, reduce the impacts of the tissue paper product industry on Canada's boreal forest. Since the launch of the initiative, consumers in Canada, the United States and around the world have sent more than 45,000 letters to Kimberly-Clark urging the company to increase its use of post-consumer recycled content and stop using fiber from endangered and ancient forests.

What Kimberly-Clark Should Do

Maximize post-consumer recycled and agricultural residue fiber content: Stop producing tissue products that are manufactured solely out of virgin wood fibers. Maximize post-consumer recycled content and/or fiber from agricultural residues in all tissue products. Minimize fiber requirements by redesigning products and increasing production efficiency.

Stay out of endangered forests: Stop using wood fiber from the Canadian boreal and other endangered forests. Stop buying pulp or wood fiber from operations that use environmentally unsustainable forestry practices, such as converting natural forests to plantations or clearcutting. Ensure that any virgin wood fiber it uses comes from sustainable logging operations that are certified to Forest Stewardship Council standards. For more information on the Forest Stewardship Council please visit www.fsc.org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Press Materials
Conservationists Launch Consumer Campaign Against Maker of Kleenex and Scott Tissue Products, NRDC Press Release
Flushing Forests Down the Toilet, NRDC Backgrounder

Related NRDC Pages
Paper Industry Laying Waste to North American Forests
How to Shop for Household Paper Products


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