Kimberly-Clark announces greener wood fiber sourcing, sparking debate between environmentalists

/ Rhett A. Butler

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, has announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will reduce the company's impact on forests worldwide. The move comes in response to a long campaign by Greenpeace, an environmental group that is now advising Kimberly-Clark on its forest policy.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, has announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will reduce the company’s impact on forests worldwide. The move comes in response to a long campaign by Greenpeace, an environmental group that is now advising Kimberly-Clark on its forest policy.

Under the new policy, Kimberly-Clark will only buy wood fiber from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified operations. FSC standards aim to ensure the sustainable use of forest resources.

Kimberly-Clark will also increase its use of recycled fiber. The company hopes to eventually obtain 100 percent of its wood fiber from environmentally responsible sources. By the end of 2011, 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber – representing about 600,000 tons – will be either recycled or FSC certified and the company will have eliminated the purchase of any fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest, North America’s largest old growth forest, that is not FSC certified.

“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,” said Scott Paul, Greenpeace USA Forest Campaign Director. “Kimberly-Clark’s efforts are a challenge to its competitors. I hope other companies pay close attention.”

But while Greenpeace is touting Kimberly-Clark’s initiative, some activists remain critical of FSC, noting that it allows for logging of old-growth forests. Ecological Internet, a forest campaign group, quickly condemned the announcement.

“No one including Greenpeace can tell us how many tens of millions of hectares of primeval forest ecosystems are being destroyed under FSC’s certification label for, amongst other things, toilet paper and lawn furniture,” said Glen Barry, director of Ecological Internet. “Until Greenpeace and friends stop greenwashing FSC ancient forest logging, we call upon committed forest protectors to resign their membership from Greenpeace and other ancient forest logging apologists, and to stop using virgin toilet paper, no matter how sensitive their behinds.”

Logging of old-growth forests remains a contentious issue among environmentalists. Some groups believe that standards like FSC are enough to ensure sustainable use of forests. Others, like Ecological Internet, maintain that any form of cutting degrades the ecological and biological functions of old-growth forests. These groups argue that logging should be restricted to secondary forests, which house less biodiversity and store less carbon than primary forests.

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