FSC Friday #3: How FSC and Greenpeace help undermine the use of recycled tissue paper

In August 2009, Greenpeace announced that it had stopped its “Kleercut” campaign against Kimberly-Clark. “Today, ancient forests like the Boreal Forest have won,” announced Richard Brooks, Greenpeace Canada Forest Campaign Coordinator. “This new relationship between Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace will promote forest conservation, responsible forest management, and recycled fiber as far and wide as possible.”

In a press release, Greenpeace states that “The revised standards will enhance the protection of Endangered Forests and increase the use of both Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified fiber and recycled fiber.” Greenpeace has even made a little thank you card that you can send to Kimberly-Clark to thank them:

This might all sound great, but a look at the details of Kimberly-Clark’s Fiber Procurement Policy reveals a few problems. Here’s the catch:

“By 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber is either recycled or FSC certified.”

Dr. Glen Barry at Ecological Internet was quick to criticise the Greenpeace/Kimberly-Clark deal. “Greenpeace Wipes It’s Soft, Virgin Butt with Canada’s Ancient Boreal Forests“, was the headline for one of Ecological Internet’s recent press releases. “We are appalled,” Ecological Internet says, “that Greenpeace supports the continued first time industrial harvest of Canada’s ancient boreal forests to access ‘virgin’ fibers to make toilet paper, in return for vague promises of small amounts of certified and recycled fiber use in the future.” To date, about 4,000 people have sent protest emails from Ecological Internet’s website to 84 people at Greenpeace, Kimberly-Clark and FSC.

Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign Coordinator, Richard Brookes, responded: “We hope you understand that complete change does not happen overnight – neither for governments nor individuals, nor for multi-national corporations like Kimberly-Clark. But change has already taken place for the betterment of ancient forests under Kimberly-Clark’s new policy. We are confident that change will continue to happen.”

This doesn’t seem to have reassured Dr. Barry, who writes:

“Change never happens if you fail to ask for the necessary outcomes. Old forests must be fully protected and ecologically restored globally. The new policy does not implement any change, it is based upon the false assertion that FSC sustainable forest management of first time logging of ancient boreal forests somehow ‘protects’ them.”

Others have also got involved in the discussion, including the CEO of a paper company, Tim Spring of Marcal Paper, which produces 100 per cent recycled paper. Spring writes that,

“it is unnecessary to kill even a single additional tree to manufacture toilet paper, facial tissue, napkins or paper towels. Given the ability to easily make high performing, affordable paper products out of 100 percent recycled paper, Kimberly-Clark’s new agreement to manufacture paper products with as much as 60 percent virgin tree fiber is not a ‘truce’ for the planet, and it should not become the new standard for eco-friendly paper manufacturing. … Since when is 40 percent a passing grade? While I understand the negotiating process, Greenpeace needs to rethink these standards. There is no excuse to make paper from anything but 100 percent recycled fiber, especially when you consider that paper takes up a quarter of our landfill space today.”

Another critique of Greenpeace’s acceptance of Kimberly-Clark’s sourcing policy comes from The Natural Resources Defense Council. First NRDC acknowledges that the deal is an improvement: “Kimberly-Clark’s announcement that it will move to incorporate higher levels of FSC-certified fiber is a meaningful step in the right direction,” NRDC writes in a Memo to its Corporate Greening Partners. “We hope all paper companies will similarly adopt FSC forestry management practices in order to reduce the ecological and cultural destruction typically associated with the paper industry’s intensive logging practices.”

Then NRDC explains why the deal isn’t worth the paper it’s written on: “[V]irgin fiber, even if it is FSC certified, is not the optimal fiber source for disposable tissue products. Instead, disposable tissue products should be made from recycled fibers, which avoids forestry impacts entirely.” Kimberly-Clark’s policy makes no commitment to increasing the total recycled content in its tissue paper. “Under the agreement,” says NRDC, “there’s no guarantee that Kimberly-Clark’s at-home products will improve at all.”

Then there’s the plantations loophole. As NRDC points out, “Kimberly-Clark’s policy also allows Kimberly-Clark to use wood fiber from forest lands which have been converted to biologically impoverished monoculture tree plantations, provided that the supplier can verify ‘through certification by FSC or another forest certification system’ that the pre-existing forest lands were not Special Forest Areas.” “Special Forest Areas” are defined in Kimberly-Clark’s policy and account for only a small subset of natural forests. Kimberly-Clark can use raw material from forest converted to monocultures, as long as the monocultures are rubber stamped by just about any old certification system.

On 6 August 2009, Andy Tait, Greenpeace’s Biodiversity Campaign Manager was quoted in a Guardian article as saying, “There is a really obvious way to promote sustainability in the paper sector and that is to use recycled paper.” Exactly. Perhaps Tait would like to have a word with Richard Brookes, Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign Coordinator?



  1. Greenpeace is officially the enemy of the Boreal Forest. They are not welcome in Manitoba. They will be treated like the collaborators that they are.

    David Nickarz

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