By: Jan Mazotti Issue: Global Trade Section: Jewel Of Collaboration
Kimberly-Clark Professional Campaign Focuses on Sustainability Throughout Entire Product Lifecycle
As businesses and consumers look for ways to protect the environment, it’s always good to think about recycling. But now it’s time to also think about reducing. That’s the strategy Kimberly-Clark Professional is taking.
One of four global business segments of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kimberly-Clark Professional is set to launch an environmentally focused global communications campaign themed Reduce Today, Respect Tomorrow. The campaign takes a big-picture approach to environmental sustainability and is the first-ever truly global communications campaign Kimberly-Clark Professional has developed.
Kimberly-Clark Professional is one of the largest manufacturers of washroom products in the world, serving commercial and institutional facilities such as office buildings, hotels, schools, healthcare facilities, manufacturing plants, and other public buildings. Kimberly-Clark Professional is aligned with the company’s commitment to sustainability at all levels of its business strategy and decision-making processes.
“Our ongoing efforts to achieve superio r environmental performance are not just vital to our success as a business, they are also our responsibility as a corporate citizen,” explains Doug Sutton, global marketing leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional, noting that efforts are guided by global, company-wide objectives for improving operational performance in energy, water, waste, and environmental management systems.
The company has been well recognized for its efforts. For example, in 2008, and for the fourth consecutive year, Kimberly-Clark was ranked number one in the personal products category of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, a ranking based on the long-term economic, environmental and social performance of leading global companies. Specific to its environmental performance, Kimberly-Clark ranked highly in the following areas:
Environmental Policy/Management: The company was recognized for its Environmental Vision program, which provides direction, objectives and targets to improve environmental management and performance. The company has made significant progress in this area and is now in its third, five-year phase of the program, called Vision 2010.
Standards for Suppliers: The company was recognized for its Sustainability at K-C: Guide for Suppliers document.
In 2009, Kimberly-Clark was named a 2009 Energy Star Partner of the Year by the EPA, for the company’s ongoing efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its operations.
“This type of recognition validates both the commitment and good progress we’re making in the area of sustainability,” says Sutton. “Unfortunately, some important and impactful aspects of the sustainability programs of companies like Kimberly-Clark go unnoticed in today’s sound-bite media society.”
100% Recycled Does Not Look at 100% of The Picture
Most people agree that responsible stewardship of the environment is a good thing. As customers increase their desire for green products, the emerging question has been: what defines green?
“In our space, recycled content has become the easiest way for many customers to express their interest in ‘going green’,” Sutton says. “The current thinking is ‘if a product is recycled, then it must be good for the environment.’ And the more recycled content there is, the better. But the truth is, reducing impact on the environment is much broader and more nuanced than measuring the recycled content of a product.”
According to Sutton, recycled fiber isn’t the whole answer. “Focusing on 100 percent recycled alone does not look at 100 percent of the picture,” Sutton explains. “It only looks at the fibers from which the tissue is made. It does not look at the process used to make the product, the water consumed, the electricity required, from where the fiber is sourced, or how the products are packaged and used.”
“Of course, it’s good to recycle and use appropriate amounts of recycled material when manufacturing products. But we believe the more comprehensive approach is to look at the bigger picture to understand the many ways product design can reduce impact on the environment. And that’s what our campaign, Reduce Today, Respect Tomorrow is all about.”
According to Sutton, the strategy starts with product design that strives to reduce how much a user consumes overall – through usage and waste.
“Products made with a combination of virgin and recycled material can reduce consumption when compared to products made simply with 100 percent recycled material,” he says. “The truth is that higher-quality, better-performing products can allow users to use less. Our research clearly shows this.”
Yet, well-designed, quality products that reduce consumption are only part of the solution. Sutton says that Kimberly-Clark Professional considers ways to reduce environmental impact at every stage of a product’s lifecycle. For example, for the manufacturing phase, the company developed UCTAD technology, a patented manufacturing process that reduces by up to 17 percent the amount of fiber needed to make tissue, towel and wiper products versus competitive wet press technology.
Sutton quickly points out, “Kimberly-Clark Professional products are known for quality. Our research and our sales confirm these products satisfy many customer performance expectations.”
Distribution is another phase in the lifecycle where Kimberly-Clark Professional has looked for ways to reduce. Sutton notes, “We have redesigned a lot of our products and packaging to fit more products into each case and more cases into each truck, which means fewer trucks on the road. Ultimately this helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Kimberly-Clark’s environmental stewardship in this area has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2008, the EPA honored Kimberly-Clark for the second year in a row with its Environmental Excellence Award within the agency’s SmartWay Transportation Partnership.
The EPA recognized Kimberly-Clark for its leadership in conserving energy and lowering greenhouse gas emissions through a program that included investing in a strategy to locate distribution centers near large cities, implementing a new transportation management system, and collaborating with internal and external supply chain partners. As a result, Kimberly-Clark reduced its usage of diesel fuel by 1.7 million gallons and decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 113,728 tons – the equivalent of removing more than 15,000 cars from the road.
Sutton also points to several examples of how Kimberly-Clark Professional has reduced packaging waste for some of its popular products:
With Scott Roll Towels, Kimberly-Clark Professional can fit 25 percent more product into the same case, which in turn reduces packaging waste by a similar amount. UCTAD technology creates a fiber structure that essentially ‘springs back,’ so the company is able to compress many of its towels to fit more into the same size case, without compromising attributes that make these products appealing to customers.
Scott Coreless Standard Roll Bath Tissue reduces packaging waste by nearly 55 percent compared with standard roll bath tissue, including 100 percent core and paper wrap elimination. In fact, a major hotel chain in the U.S. expects to eliminate two million cores and 21 tons of packaging waste annually after adopting this product later this year.
Many cases have been re-sized to optimize how they fit onto a standard pallet, so truck space can be used more effectively, reducing the total number of deliveries needed to fill orders.
In addition to evaluating how products are made and packaged, Kimberly-Clark Professional looks at how its products are used – and often wasted. Sutton points to the example of janitors throwing away toilet tissue stub rolls just to be totally sure that paper wouldn’t run out before their next check. This often led to significant product waste.
Kimberly-Clark Professional addressed this problem by re-designing its dispensing system so that the stub roll can be completely used up – potentially reducing waste to zero.
“While some customers focus on recycled content alone, others are becoming aware that there’s more to the story,” says Sutton. “They are coming to understand that a product simply made with a high percentage of recycled content isn’t necessarily the best solution for the environment.”
Sutton notes that some of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s customers mandate the use of 100 percent recycled fiber hand towels and bath tissue. For these customers, the company offers a range of Scott brand tissue and towel products that contain 100 percent recycled fiber and are processed chlorine free, meaning no chlorine derivatives are used in the bleaching and de-inking process. Some of its products are also Green Seal certified.
“We offer these products because of demand,” says Sutton. “But we don’t necessarily recommend them as the best option. We have developed some simple web-based tools that help customers compare environmental impacts between different alternatives, and we recommend the solutions with the lowest total impact, not just with the most recycled fiber content.”
Regarding questions raised by some environmental campaigners, Sutton acknowledges that, because Kimberly-Clark Professional products include some virgin fiber, customers sometimes inquire about the company’s forestry practices.
“We clearly believe that trees are a renewable resource and that they can be managed in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way,” says Sutton.
Kimberly-Clark does not own any forest land itself. Rather, 98 percent of its fiber comes from suppliers that have certified their woodlands or procurement activities through one of five internationally recognized certification systems (i.e., FSC, SFI, CSA, PEFC and CERFLOR).
While Kimberly-Clark prefers FSC-certified fiber because of its strong environmental standards, all certified suppliers commit to following rules that protect wildlife and sensitive ecosystems through the use of sustainable forestry best practices and management of timberlands for sustainable renewal and growth.
Sutton notes that there is clearly growing interest in the environment and in understanding the practices of companies like Kimberly-Clark. “This is a very good trend,” he confirms. “After all, the environment affects all of us, so we have to take care of it. We all have a role to play, both as individuals and as businesses. We’re very proud of our track record – and our approach at KCP is fundamentally about reducing environmental impact.”
Reduce Today, Respect Tomorrow
After all, the environment affects all of us, so we have to take care of it. We all have a role to play, both as individuals and as businesses
Recycled fiber. Reduced packaging. Manufacturing technologies that reduce the amount of raw material used. Superior product performance that allows customers to use less and waste less. These are all components of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s business strategy for a more sustainable future.
Concludes Sutton, “Consumers and businesses today are suffering from an over-simplified understanding of what is good for the environment. Instead, we need to focus on the bigger picture – at what we believe will result in the most sustainable conditions long-term. By reducing today, we can all respect tomorrow.”