The End to Kleencut: Greenpeace embraces Kimberly-Clark

In 2004, Greenpeace launched a campaign called Kleercut.  The target for this action/churn was  Kimberly-Clark, a major paper-goods company.  Among the its well known products are Scott, Cottenelle, and Kleenex.  Clearly the Kleercut is a play on the Kleenex brand.  Greenpeace initiated the campaign to create a specific behavior change—to shame Kimberly-Clark into no longer using old-growth timber, some of which comes from Canada.  In August of 2009, Kimberly-Clark agreed to end using old-growth timber from Canada and to increase its use of recycled materials and environmentally responsible sources.  Both organizations heralded the agreement.

Here is a segment from Kimberly-Clark’s news release on the topic:

Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, today announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will increase conservation of forests globally and will make the company a leader for sustainably produced tissue products. Greenpeace, which worked with Kimberly-Clark on its revised standards, announced that it will end its “Kleercut” campaign, which focused on the company and its brands.

‘We are committed to using environmentally responsible wood fiber and today’s announcement enhances our industry-leading practices in this area,” said Suhas Apte, Kimberly-Clark Vice President of Environment, Energy, Safety, Quality and Sustainability. “It is our belief that certified primary wood fiber and recycled fiber can both be used in an environmentally responsible way and can provide the product performance that customers and consumers expect from our well-known tissue brands. We commend Greenpeace for helping us develop more sustainable standards.’

Kimberly-Clark has set a goal of obtaining 100 percent of the company’s wood fiber for tissue products, including the Kleenex brand, from environmentally responsible sources. 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. By the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber – representing an estimated 600,000 tonnes – is either recycled or FSC certified, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2007 levels.

‘Today, ancient forests like the Boreal Forest have won,” said 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.’

Also by the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will eliminate the purchase of any fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest that is not FSC certified. This forest is North America’s largest old growth forest, providing habitat for threatened wildlife such as woodland caribou and a sanctuary for more than one billion migratory birds. It is also the largest terrestrial storehouse of carbon on the planet, storing the equivalent of 27 years worth of global greenhouse gas emissions.”


With the policy change, Kimberly-Clark moves to a strong position on sustainability.  In fact, they could now position themselves as sustainability leader in the paper-good industry.  On a lighter note, Kimberly-Clark noted toilet paper would not be made from 100% recycled material because that would be too harsh for the US market.  (Americans like the soft toilet paper).

Notice the campaign began in 2004 so it ran for nearly five years before there was a change.  A centerpiece of the campaign was a web site,  The web site contained information about the issue and ways people could become involved.  The involvement included action packs for creating your own campaign.  The action packs contain background information on the issue and plenty of public relations advice.  Section included how to get media attention, how to stage street theater, and preparing for media interviews.  Entries included titles such as Kimberly-Clark Declared Greenwasher by Ethical Corporation Magazine and Greenpeace Report: Kimberly-Clark’s Failed Policies Devastate Forest, “A new Greenpeace report reveals that Kimberly-Clark devastated Ontario’s Kenogami Forest while promoting itself as a leader in environmental and social responsibility.”


The home page for Kleercut site now explains the agreement and ends this message: “Please join us in thanking Kimberly-Clark for supporting conservation of the Boreal Forest by sending its CEO a congratulations email.” 

Questions to Consider

  1.  How does this case illustrate utility of stakeholder churn and the exercise of power by activists?
  2. What role did public relations play in creating power for Greenpeace and placing pressure on Kimberly-Clark to change?
  3. How does this case illustrate the Excellence dialectic for corporations and activists (Chapter 5)?
  4. Why might it have taken over four years to reach an agreement?
  5. Why is it important that the announcement was made jointly by Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace?
  6. From Greenpeace’s perspective, how would you measure success in this campaign (Chapter 4)?
  7. How will the action help Kimberly-Clark with its CSR and its reputation?
  8. How might this action influence other companies in the paper-goods business?
  9. How did each side “win” with the policy change?
  10. How does the case illustrate globalization’s effect on public relations?

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