Report: Tissue Market Is Shifting to Sustainability, But P&G Doubles Down on Flushing Climate-Critical Forests for Toilet Paper
WASHINGTON – Tissue maker start-ups disrupted the marketplace in the last year by offering consumers greater choices of new, more sustainable brands, according to an updated ranking of tissue products, Issue With Tissue 3.0, released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). In contrast, Procter & Gamble (P&G) remains stuck in the past, rejecting demands from consumers and shareholders alike to end their reliance on climate-critical forests like the Canadian Boreal, for the ultimate one-time-use product made from trees: toilet paper.
“As the climate crisis worsens, the tissue industry’s continued reliance on a devastating ‘tree to toilet pipeline’ has become only more untenable,” said Shelley Vinyard, NRDC’s Boreal Corporate Campaign Manager. “P&G is one of the worst offenders, rebuffing its investors concerned about deforestation, while using its billion-dollar advertising budget to hide its disgraceful legacy of fueling forest destruction and harming communities. Major corporations like P&G must start responding to the pressure and accept their own, much larger, role in the climate catastrophe.”
NRDC’s new Issue With Tissue scorecard reveals the nation’s largest tissue makers are still largely failing to offer sustainably made products that don’t come from clearcut forests. Kimberly-Clark is now offering a product made from 100 percent recycled content online to consumers, but still makes most of its flagship consumer brands entirely from virgin forest fiber. P&G actually increased the volume of forest fiber from Canada this past year. Canada’s boreal forest is the largest remaining primary forest on the planet, storing the carbon equivalent of twice the world’s oil reserves.
Even a sharp rebuke of its current operations by a majority of P&G’s shareholders, who supported a 2020 resolution calling for the company to determine how it could eliminate deforestation and intact forest degradation from its supply chains, did not result in P&G making any significant changes to its tissue sourcing.
Key Findings of Issue with Tissue 3.0 include:
- NRDC evaluated 44 toilet paper brands: 11 toilet papers made with recycled materials rolled in with an A or A+ score in the 2021 scorecard, with Who Gives a Crap, 100% Recycled and Green Forest nabbing the top spots. Major brands Charmin and Angel Soft brought up the rear with F scores.
- Kimberly-Clark became the first of the “Big Three” tissue makers to score an A for any product.
Kimberly-Clark is now offering its Scott Essential Standard Roll, made from 100% recycled content and at least 50% post-consumer recycled content, online directly to consumers. It’s not a new product, but it is the first time it has been made available to the home market, as opposed to the “away” from home market. That’s the good news, though NRDC notes the company purchased more than 600,000 metric tons of natural forest fiber in the last year for its products, a volume increase of 16.7% over the previous year. Kimberly-Clark also still makes Cottonelle and Kleenex from 100% forest fiber, so there is room for improvement.
- Bamboo tissue products make the scorecard for the first time, with a top score of B+
Bamboo is an alternative fiber to traditional forest fiber for making tissue, and bamboo products have been increasing in popularity for the last few years. Bamboo grows rapidly, and often has a lower ecological footprint than forest fiber. That said, some bamboo plantations were created by deforesting primary forests, and therefore bamboo sourced from these regions should be avoided. The 2021 scorecard assigns more points to bamboo products that bear the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on their products, as that certification helps to guarantee products meet sustainability metrics.
The top-scoring bamboo toilet papers include Cloud Paper and Bim Bam Boo.
“Finally, both large and small companies are offering tissue products that don’t flush our forests down the drain. Now it’s time for the laggards like P&G to catch up to the quickly shifting market trends,” said Vinyard. “P&G and other major tissue makers must give the public more choices and use their extensive resources to create and deliver products with recycled and responsibly-sourced content that is better for the planet.”
- Download the Issue With Tissue 3.0 report: LINK
- Download NRDC’s Toilet Paper Scorecard: LINK and enter the Password: NRDC_IssueTissue
- Shelley Vinyard’s blog: “P&G Stuck in the Past in a Shifting Tissue Marketplace”
- Boreal photography: Photo credit is required: River Jordan for NRDC: LINK and enter the Password: NRDC_IssueTissue
- Video footage of the Boreal forest in Ontario: LINK and enter the Password: NRDC_IssueTissue
NRDC’s new Issue With Tissue 3.0 scorecard contains more products, across toilet paper, facial tissue, and paper towels, than any previous iteration. This year’s scorecard includes 95 brands, 36 of which have not been scored before. Of the 95 products, 45 received a B grade or higher, with products made from post-consumer recycled content receiving the highest grades because of those products’ lower carbon footprint and reduced forest impact. (Tissue products made from recycled content have one-third the carbon footprint of virgin fiber tissue products, according to the Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Calculator 4.0.)
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.