Alternative Fibers

Going beyond the commitments in our current fiber-sourcing policy, Kimberly-Clark is exploring alternative sources of fiber in order to continue to provide the high-quality products our consumers demand. We work to strengthen our tissue business by enabling increased fiber flexibility, and to foster sustainability of the world's natural forests.

We continue to support sustainable forest management by adhering to our fiber procurement policy, which holds FSC certification in the highest regard.

At the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainability Development in June 2012, we announced our intention to transition at least 50% of our wood fiber sourced from natural forests to other fiber sources by 2025. This ambitious goal has required us to undertake initiatives such as maximizing our use of wood from plantations, increasing our use of waste by-products, and incorporating land use-efficient, rapidly renewable fiber alternatives. This move may also provide business advantage as regards fiber flexibility and, ideally, reductions in cost volatility.

Kimberly-Clark is pursuing several high-potential fiber alternatives, including those from plants such as bamboo, miscanthus, and other purpose grown natural fibers that make efficient and sustainable use of land, as well as "agricultural waste" fibers such as wheat straw.

In 2013, we were able to reduce the use of our fiber supplied from natural forests by 24%. While we are pleased with this level of progress, we recognize there is still room to improve, and are committed to working with key stakeholders to continue towards our 2025 goal.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

In 2012, Kimberly-Clark commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) from scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) to help inform us of potential environmental benefits and life cycle impacts of using alternative natural fibers. In addition to the traditional impact areas studied in LCAs, the study provided supplemental analysis on issues such as scale of land use, impacts on biodiversity and biogenic carbon accounting. The study indicates that the alternative fiber sources researched each had different environmental impacts. In general bamboo, recycled fiber, Arundo donax (Giant Cane) and kenaf had lower impacts on water depletion and land use.

Building on the findings of the LCA, in 2013, we commissioned WWF-US to do additional sustainability work related to potential impacts on carbon sequestration, biodiversity and ecosystem services of various alternative natural fibers.

This LCA has further deepened our understanding of the environmental impacts associated with the use of alternative natural fibers and guides our fiber development activities in the future.

Global Stewardship Standard

To ensure that the management of alternative natural fibers is handled responsibly, it is essential to have a clear standard that promotes and enforces globally respected environmental and social criteria among producers of alternative natural fibers. To help achieve this goal, Kimberly-Clark is working with the Rainforest Alliance on the long-term development of a rigorous global stewardship standard.

In the meantime, the company is working with environmental partners like Greenpeace and WWF to develop interim sustainability criteria to follow as new plantings are grown and crops are developed. These criteria include no conversion of natural forests, no use of genetically-modified organisms and no permanent conversion of agricultural crop land.

Using Alternative Fiber

In 2013, Kimberly-Clark launched VIVA brand paper towels with bamboo fiber in Australia, a first for Kimberly-Clark globally, and the first paper towel product in the country to contain bamboo fiber.

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