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Road to Sustainability

15 November 2009

Reducing environmental impact is at the core of design, manufacture and disposal of Kimberly-Clark’s washroom products and drives its business philosphy across all its operations

KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL, the world’s largest supplier of washroom products, is continuing to reduce its impact on the environment thanks to a range of measures targeting the entire lifecycle of its products from source to disposal from product design through raw materials, manufacturing, transport, use and final disposal.
Within all these areas Kimberly-Clark Professional is focusing on a range of issues, such as responsible forest management throughout the supply chain, reduction of energy and water consumption, reduction of packaging materials in carbon emissions and waste generation.
“The idea of source reduction is at the heart of our ‘Reduce today, respect tomorrow’ programme. And it is leading us to find ways which we can reduce the consumption of natural resources throughout the lifecycle of our products,” said Lisa Morden, Global Sustainability Manager at Kimberly-Clark Professional. “We are proud of our achievements so far, but this is not the end of the story. We will continue to make improvements in our on-going pursuit of sustainability.”
To achieve its aims, Kimberly-Clark Professional is targeting each stage of the product life cycle with tailored solutions.
Product design
The process starts with product design intended to reduce the resources consumed during manufacturing, distribution and use of products. By embedding sustainability principles into product innovation processes and utilising life cycle thinking, Kimberly-Clark Professional is working to reduce the use of the worlds natural resources even further.
One outcome of the innovation process is the company’s patented Airflex Fabric, which is used in the Kleenex® and Scott® Branded and Wypall L product ranges. Airflex Fabric reduces fibre consumption by up to 17 percent compared with conventional fabrics and, when used in Scott Xtra Hand Towels, the amount of fibre needed to dry hands is reduced.
The result: the amount of dry waste in the bin is reduced by up to 28 percent. “Airflex Fabric is a great example of how innovation can really make a difference to the environment,” said Morden. “High performance products manufactured using Airflex Fabric help customers reduce their usage, which in turn means fewer resources to get the job done and less waste to throw away.” Further innovations include Wypall X cloths made from Hydroknit material, which results in consistently strong and absorbent wipes that can reduce usage and landfill compared with rags.
Raw materials
After the design process, Kimberly-Clark Professional takes care to source raw materials in a responsible manner. In Europe, every one of the company’s virgin pulp suppliers is certified under the Forest Stewardship Council scheme. In addition, across Europe Kimberly-Clark Professional products contain on average 80 percent recycled fibres – equivalent to more than 174,000 metric tonnes of fibre. Kimberly-Clark Professional has also invested in new technology and process improvements designed to reduce the use of natural resources. At Delyn Mill in the UK for example, the company has invested in additional water cleaning equipment to improve reliability and effluent water quality. This has also enabled the mill to recycle more water and reduce the amount of fresh water consumed.
In addition, Kimberly-Clark Professional has implemented an Environment Management System (EMS), which has been third-party accredited to the ISO 140001 standard, in each of its European manufacturing sites. The EMS helps to ensure that each site’s most significant environmental aspects, including water and energy, are identified and managed to reduce impact on the environment.
As a result of its efforts the corporation has been able to improve energy efficiency by 9 percent since 2005, improved water use efficiency by 15 percent since 2000 and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent since 2005.
Recognizing that our efforts must extend beyond the shop floor, Kimberly-Clark company has also introduced a number of improvements to packaging and distribution efficiencies, which will result in significant reductions in transportationrelated carbon emissions.
In the UK, Kimberly-Clark Professional has improved efficiency and minimised environmentalimpact by reducing the occasions where trucks are running empty. The company has introduced an integrated transport solution in which the same trucks are used for outbound customer deliveries as well as inbound logistics back to mills, such as pallets, waste paper and supplies. In 2008 this helped cut empty running down to 24percent.
As part of its ongoing resource reduction effort, the Kimberly-Clark Professional facility in Koblenz, Germany, recently invested $330,000 to reconstruct the railway connection from its main regional distribution centre. The mill produces 53,000 metric tons of product per year, including bath tissue for hotels and restaurants and specialized wiper products for the manufacturing industry. In total, delivering these goods by rail will save more than 2,500 truck deliveries each year,significantly reducing CO2 emissions.
Alongside this initiative Kimberly-Clark Professional strives to maximise every square inch of loading space when its vehicles hit the road using unique packaging and palletisation techniques. Not only does this help cut carbon emissions, it can also make handling and storage easier for customers. The company’s Scott Slimfold Hand Towels, for example, take up 50 percent less space than similar products, while still offering 100 percent of the performance. The same is true of Scott Rolled Hand Towels and Kleenguard Gloves. Both of these products require half of the transport space required by other, similar products on the market without anyreduction in quality. Packaging materials are also being reduced, through the use of lighter plastics and recycled fibre. Compressed packaging is used to get more product in the same space, while unnecessary packaging is also being eliminated.Last, but certainly not least, Kimberly-Clark Professional has implemented initiatives to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. The company diverted 1.2 million tonnes of manufacturing waste from landfill last year alone. That’s equivalent to the waste generated by 2.3 million European citizens every year.
Use and disposal
Waste is also being reduced at the final disposal stage, thanks to innovative product design and dispensing systems. The Kimberly-Clark Professional Folded Toilet Tissue System saves up to 40 percent of tissue compared with the jumbo roll format, which means less is used and less is thrown away.
“Our efforts stem from understanding that the way we use resources today shapes the world of tomorrow,” said Morden. “The actions we have taken so far are good for the environment, good for our customers and good for our business – by reducing today, we respect tomorrow”
Kimberly-Clark Professional has achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ‘chain of custody’ certification for all its European mills. This significant landmark means that many of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s paper products – including some sold under the Kleenex and Scott brands – will carry the FSC label on their packaging. This mark signifies that the wood fibre used to make the certified products comes from well-managed FSC-certified forests and/or from post-consumer recycled fibre.
Morden explains: “At Kimberly-Clark Professional we understand that the way we use resources today will shape the world of tomorrow. We are committed to responsible fibre procurement and the sustainable use of all natural resources. We are working to ensure all of the wood pulp we use comes from sustainably managed forests and have been recognised by Greenpeace as having adopted one of the most progressive fibre policies in the world. Our goal is to source 100 percent of our wood pulp from suppliers who have certified their forests or fibre procurement activities. We give preference to FSC certified wood fibre where it is available and meets product performance requirements and competitive market conditions.”

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