Kimberly-Clark ranked bottom among tissue makers on environment

Kimberly-Clark, the company behind such household names as Andrex and Kleenex, has finished bottom in a WWF survey of the environmental performance of tissue manufacturers.1 None of the companies, says WWF, is "offering enough recycled content".

The survey rates five leading tissue manufacturers on six issues: fibre sourcing policies, use of recycled fibre, production standards, public reporting of environmental performance, number of mills with a certified environmental management system (EMS) and recent efforts to improve fibre sourcing.

The companies could score about 30 points on each of the first four issues, seven on EMSs and 15 on recent gains. The two European firms, Sweden's SCA and Finland's Mets„, scored more than the three US firms - Georgia Pacific, Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark.

SCA, the maker of Velvet toilet tissue, tops the survey with 46% of the maximum score - a performance twice as good as the worst performer, Kimberly-Clark. Although it finished top or equal top in four categories, the key differential for SCA was its steps to exclude illegal or controversial timber sources from its supplies, including a comprehensive tracking system.

Mets„ Tissue (35%), Georgia Pacific (32%), Procter & Gamble (26%) and Kimberly-Clark (24%) follow SCA in the rankings.

The firms appear in a particularly bad light in their use of recycled fibre. Mets„ is the only company using more than 50% recycled fibre in its European operations. Procter & Gamble uses just 15%, all of which is process waste rather than post-consumer waste. Only SCA and Mets„ get most of their recycled fibres from post-consumer waste.

The survey also reveals great disparity between the use of recycled fibre in household and commercial products. Kimberly-Clark, for example, uses 23% recycled fibre in its household goods, but 88% in those for the commercial sector.

WWF believes such a divide is unnecessary. "Every day about 270,000 trees are effectively flushed down the toilet," said Andrew Lee, WWF's campaigns director. "This is occurring at a time when some of the world's most important forests are under serious threat. Manufacturers must use more recycled fibres."

The companies fare little better when their timber sourcing policies are examined. Only SCA and Procter & Gamble have a "clear policy to eliminate all raw materials from unknown, illegal and controversial sources" such as those with a high biodiversity value and those where the rights of indigenous populations are compromised.

SCA uses the greatest proportion (45%) of timber certified to standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council. Procter & Gamble uses 29%, Kimberly-Clark 21% and Mets„ 5%. Georgia Pacific did not supply the data. All firms give equal weight to other schemes such as the timber industry's own Pan-European Forestry Certification scheme.

The report also highlights the different chemicals used by the companies in their bleaching process. While 80% of Mets„'s bleaching is conducted using "totally chlorine free" processes that avoid elemental chlorine and chlorine dioxide, this applies to only 42% of Procter & Gamble's and 11% of Georgia Pacific's bleaching.

Kimberly-Clark said it was "strange" it had come bottom of the rankings when it is named as a leader in the personal products sector of the "much more authoritative" Dow Jones sustainability index. However SCA, Mets„ and Georgia Pacific - the survey's top three companies - are too small to be included in the index.

Procter & Gamble argued that comparing five "quite different" firms working in varied countries and product groups has led to "inaccurate and confusing" results. It stressed that it does not make tissue products for the commercial sector where demand for green products is stronger, but WWF insists this was taken into account.

P&G also claims that using post-consumer fibre results in greater energy consumption. "The use of post-consumer recycled content results in overall higher energy usage and wastes (due to inefficient recycling process, reduction in final product performance and a major impact on manufacturing efficiency)," said a statement. "We have focused instead on source reduction and have developed technology that enables us to get higher performance with less fibre."