Kimberly-Clark loves forests

1. What is Kimberly-Clark?
Kimberly-Clark is a global health and hygiene company. We make market-leading brands such as Kleenex, Kleenex Cottonelle, Huggies, Pull-ups, VIVA paper towel, U by Kotex for essential products; including paper towels, tissues and nappies.

These brands are sold into 175 countries, with nearly one-quarter of the world’s population purchasing our products each day. This trust has led to Kimberly-Clark brands holding the No. 1 or No. 2 share position in more than 80 countries.

The company’s purpose is about leading the world in essentials for a better life. In Australia we are the market leader in six of the eight grocery categories that we operate in, and our products reach into every Australian home.

2. When and how was Kimberly-Clark started?
Kimberly-Clark Corporation was established in 1872 in Wisconsin, USA, and is now a Fortune 500 company.

Kimberly-Clark Australia’s story starts in 1926, selling Kotex napkins imported from the USA. In the 1930s Kimberly-Clark began local manufacture of feminine care products and the import of Kleenex facial tissues. In 1939 the company expanded local operations to include packaging Kleenex facial tissue at its mill in Surry Hills, Sydney.In July 1991 Kimberly-Clark established facilities for the sales and marketing of consumer products in New Zealand.

3. How does Kimberly-Clark work?
In Australia, our head office is in Sydney and we have offices in all other capital cities. We are also a proud local manufacturer, operating two manufacturing sites in Australia; one in Millicent, South Australia for towel and tissue products with a workforce of 400 people and the other in south-western Sydney for Huggies nappies and pants. In New Zealand, head office sales and distribution is located in Manukau, Auckland, with a regional office in Christchurch.

We have 1,200 employees across Australia and New Zealand. Globally there are 42,500 employees working at manufacturing facilities in 37 countries.

4. What does sustainability mean to Kimberly-Clark?
As a market leader in health and hygiene, and with our products reaching most homes, we have a responsibility in terms of sustainability, and it’s a responsibility we don’t shy away from.

Protecting the environment and improving the lives of people through our products and actions, is critical to our business. We continuously aim to improve the way we run our business – socially, environmentally and economically. This commitment is one of the reasons that our organisation has earned the trust and respect of people around the world for more than 140 years.

Our sustainability platform – ‘Our Essential World’ – is firmly anchored in our business’ core purpose. It has three pillars for sustainability to reflect a triple bottom-line approach: People, Planet, Products. We have had environmental goals for over 20 years, and more targeted ones for Australia and New Zealand since 2011.

Our commitments not only cover reducing the impact of our operations but also our supply chain, which includes sourcing only Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified fibre. We’re also looking at how we can use the power of our brand to help make a difference, such as working to provide mechanisms to address post-consumer waste, such as nappies.

Currently named by Ethisphere Institute as one of the most ethical companies in the world, Kimberly-Clark is also one of the most awarded companies in Australia for sustainability, having won six prestigious awards in the last two years. This includes the inaugural Environment Minister’s Award for a Cleaner Environment through the Banksia Foundation for initiatives at the Millicent manufacturing plant.

Key highlights from our latest Sustainability Progress report include:

  • Carbon emissions reductions of 29% since 2011, even with increased total production across Kimberly-Clark manufacturing sites.
  • Manufacturing wastewater from the Millicent facility, reaching Australian drinking water standards as verified by independent tests.
  • Supported the composting of over 3,000 tonnes of absorbent hygiene waste in New Zealand.
  • Helped consumers recycle 1.5 million pieces of flexible plastic packaging, via our partnership with REDcycle.
  • Launched Kleenex® Cottonelle® Toilet Tissue with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) certified Bamboo Fibers to progress the company’s global goal of reducing natural wood fibre in Kimberly-Clark products.

Sustainability is also important to our staff. And with the recent accolades we have received, it has become a great source of pride amongst employees and successful way to attract and retain key talent.

5. What challenges do you face as a business that cares about sustainable practices?
From a business standpoint, one of the challenges that we face is making the financials stack up in a competitive marketplace – ensuring we can still operate a profitable business when there’s deflationary pricing across the category, but still be paying a price premium on ethically sourced FSC certified pulp. It’s a constant balance we have to address.

6. Where would you like to see sustainable business practices in 10 years time?
In the future it would be great to see:

  1. Mainstream consumers rewarding, through their purchasing decisions, brands and organizations that invest in third party certifications and sustainable practices. We all like a good deal, and while cost will always be a consideration, it’s hoped that consumers’ purchase drivers evolve to also factor in how businesses are sourcing their materials.
  2. More established alternate waste and recycling solutions and markets in Australia, such as for post-consumer waste of nappies.
  3. Australia no longer known for having the largest carbon footprint, second only to the United States; with people and companies using less fossil fuel resources.

7. Why the Rainforest Alliance?
The Rainforest Alliance is the FSC certification body for Kimberly-Clark in Australia and New Zealand. That’s because we believe Rainforest Alliance has very high levels of integrity and expertise in third party certification in these key commodity areas.

We also work with Rainforest Alliance on new ventures in sustainable fiber sources. Off the back of our global commitment to halve our natural forest fiber footprint by 2025, we’ve recently invested in the development of an Alternate Natural Fiber Standard.  With Rainforest Alliance, we are exploring how plant-based fibers such as bamboo and wheat straw that don’t necessarily fit neatly within existing FSC standards might be recognized.

8. What’s the experience been like to go through certification?
Our Millicent manufacturing plant has had FSC Chain of Custody certification since 2011. In terms of maintenance, internal processes and procedures for the certification, we’ve found it quite rigorous. We knew it was recognized as the ‘gold standard’ in third party certification by organizations like WWF and Greenpeace for that very reason. That’s what gives FSC its integrity and we respect the need for the robustness. We believe it’s a worthwhile investment.

9. How has Rainforest Alliance accreditation helped your business?
We’ve purposefully used our Forest Stewardship Council certification to competitively position and differentiate our products in the marketplace. We were the first tissue company to get certified and promote it prominently on our tissue and towel products.We launched the Love Your Forests program in partnership with WWF-Australia to drive awareness of FSC certified products and benefits to forests. This has sent a signal to suppliers that this is a ‘right to play’ in this category, with more than 80% of that category now boasting third party certified fiber.

Our pro-active investment in promoting FSC certification and the Love Your Forests program over the past four years has also contributed to a three-fold increase in consumer awareness of FSC certification.

10. Tell us something about Kimberly-Clark that we might not know?
We’ve just recently launched the ‘Heart of Borneo’ program in partnership with WWF-Australia to help protect organg-utans in Borneo and raise awareness of FSC certification as the solution to devastating deforestation. People and organizations can pledge their support online.

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