Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Kimberly-Clark signs up with former tormentors

November 2009

An unusual alliance has been struck-up between the tissue products giant Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace, which will see a turnaround on the company’s policies towards the protection of ancient forests.

The two parties have often been at loggerheads over the past five years as a result of Greenpeace’s vigorous ‘Kleercut’ campaign against Kimberly-Clark’s paper sourcing policies. But they have now agreed standards to deal with the company’s perceived shortcomings in areas such as ancient forest protection and sustainable sourcing.

The development has been hailed by Greenpeace as ‘a Walmartesque change’, referring to the dramatic turnaround on CSR engineered several years ago by Walmart under the leadership of chief executive Lee Scott .     

However, it is also something of a landmark for Greenpeace, which is not renowned for becoming involved in deals with corporates. Although some NGOs, such as WWF and the Rainforest Alliance, are well known for being ready to work with companies to improve their ethical performance, Greenpeace has generally stayed on the sidelines, partly to maintain its capacity to criticize and campaign against business.

During its campaigning against Kimberly-Clark, Greenpeace had pressured the company to protect ancient forests in North America, and to use more recycled fibre. Hundreds of protests were mounted globally, and there were occasional arrests at sit-ins and blockades.

However, the NGO has since been invited into the Kimberly-Clark boardroom, and has endorsed the company’s new policy, which it says ‘has implications for the sector as a whole that are not to be underestimated’. Greenpeace has ended its Kleercut campaign as part of the agreement.

Scott Paul, Greenpeace USA’s forest campaign director, said: ‘These revised standards are proof that when responsible companies and Greenpeace come together, the results can be good for business and great for the planet. Kimberly-Clark’s efforts are a challenge to its competitors. I hope other companies pay close attention.’

Kimberly-Clark, which manufacturers Kleenex, as well as nappies and tampons, has pledged to eliminate all North American boreal forest fibre that is not certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and to ensure that 40 per cent of all its North American fibre is either recycled or FSC-certified by 2011.

The company has further committed to obtain all its wood in the long term from ‘responsible sources’, such as FSC-certified forests.

Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark’s global sustainability vice-president, said: ‘We have a lot to gain from Greenpeace’s expertise. NGOs have a large knowledge base that we can use to do what’s right for the environment and for our business.’

Kimberley Clark | Global | Partnerships


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