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Focus: Sourcing/Procurement

Feature Article from Our Sourcing and Procurement Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target e-Magazine

- Nov. 15, 2012 -

Supply Chain News: Paper Products Competitors Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark Both Pursuing Aggressive Green Sourcing Initiatives


Green Makes the Headlines, but Alternative Sources Could Also Reduce Business Risk; KC Looks to Grow Bamboo?


SDigest Editorial Staff 


Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark have been fierce rivals in paper based products such as paper towels and disposable diapers for decades, and that battle now includes which company can appear "greener" in consumers eyes.

In June Kimberly-Clark announced a plan to source 50% of its wood fiber to alternative sources from traditional trees by 2025. At the same time, K-C said it had commissioned the Georgia Institute of Technology to conduct a life cycle analysis and broader sustainability risk assessment for its alternative fiber options.

SCDigest Says:


Traditional sourcing of pulp from made from trees was in fact becoming an important element of business risk. So the search for alternative sources had both a green and core business dimension.

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That came after a 2009 policy change that mandated that 40% of its fiber be sourced either from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified or recycled sources by 2011. That move came in part of after years of attention from environmental group Greenpeace that pressured the company to cut its ties with suppliers using non FSC-certified wood.

While the 50% goal announced in June was ambitious, it turns out KC was starting to see what might be a key piece of the puzzle - bamboo

The company is already test marketing tissue products in North America that contain 20% bamboo, and in the UK, it has launched Andrex Eco bath tissue, a product containing 10% bamboo and 90% recycled fiber – though there are real sourcing challenges, as we detail below.

The goal isn't purely environmental. KC believes that use of these non-traditional sources can protect its bottom line from the wild input costs dynamics that the paper industry and most other sectors have seen in the last decade.

"We've taken a long look at what are the outlook and trends in virgin and recycled fiber supply," Brenda Nelson, a director of business planning and sustainability for KC's family care division, told GreenBiz. "There's increasing pressures and demand on land that's available. We know that where there are constraints in terms of resources, we'll someday have business impacts associated with them."

Traditional sourcing of pulp from made from trees was in fact becoming an important element of business risk. So the search for alternative sources had both a green and core business dimension.

Research led to a look at many potential sources, including wheat straw, a product left over from wheat farming. A number of attributes were looked at, including availability, fiber characteristics (important to the end product feel and function to consumers) and, of course, the impact on production.

The focus at KC appears now to be on bamboo. Why? Bamboo grows four times faster than trees, and requires a limited amount of fertilizer, pesticides or water. In addition, it can be grown in southeastern US and be processed at US wood pulping factories.

(Sourcing and Procurement Article Continues Below)



However, those advantages of bamboo have led many companies and industries too also look bamboo's way as a source not only for paper products but a number of other product categories. Bamboo sales are skyrocketing, and shortages are developing, and some varieties of bamboo are on the verge of extinction from overharvesting.

Worse, bamboo only flowers every 60 to 100 years (who knew?), making propagation from seed a long term strategy, to say the least. "Out of the frying pan, into the fire," it seems.

But a company called Booshoot in Mt. Vernon Washington developed a patented method using non-genetically modified tissue culture to grow large volumes of bamboo fast enough for it to be sourced at commercial scale.
Booshoot is providing Kimberly-Clark with tens of thousands of bamboo starts for its R&D projects. If the tests are positive, it is likely that KC will become the largest grower and processor of bamboo in the US – a vertically integrated approach to supply chain.

SCDigest will keep watching this one.

P&G Also Makes Sourcing Commitments

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble announced last week new fiber sourcing goals for the pulp it purchases for its tissue-towel, baby care, and feminine hygiene brands.

The company says that by 2015, all of the pulp used in P&G's products in those categories will be third-party certified under one of the following five certification programs used in different parts of the world to promote responsible forestry: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which P&G will continue to preference; Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Systems (PEFC); Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI); Brazilian National Forestry Certification Scheme (CERFLOR); or Canada's National Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (CSA-SFM).

In addition, at least 40% of the pulp used in P&G's tissue-towel products will be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

P&G says it will achieve these goals in part by cutting ties with suppliers who have not been certified sustainable by these groups.

P&G also re-iterated its commitment as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum, a group of global companies that are promising to a goal of reaching zero net deforestation by 2020. Kimberly-Clark is also a member.
No word on a P&G bamboo strategy yet.

P&G did release its 2012 Sustainability Report this week, which we will review next week on

Any reaction to these Green paper supply chains wars? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

Recent Feedback

This situation boosted my interest in bamboo for the environment and the economy. It is likely becoming a trend now to look into substituting timber trees as the source of pulp and paper. Bamboo even though a premium grass, it really answers the problems on enormous cutting of trees, making the forest denuded, and ultimately fewer trees to absorb water and carbon and support the soil. This results in massive landslides, flashfloods, warmer surroundings=global warming=climate change. Tree's root systems, leaves that absorb 400% carbon, it's culms, and even shoots have benefits.

Huge companies like KC and P&G should really act now before everything precious on Earth has been depleted due to uncontrolled and unusual impacts of natural disasters.

When looking into bamboo, it is not enough to look on the economic side but more so on its promising role in providing environmental solutions. These companies should create a strategy that could embrace both economic and environmental goals. Projects like the one we are promoting are geared towards a bamboo industry that will not sacrifice the sustanaibility as well as the ability of nature to rehabilitate itself. We are looking for funding agencies that will help us realize this project called "Bamboo Corridor Project" in Ilocos Sur, Philippines. We are targeting propagation of Bambusa blumeana as it can be a good source of engineered wood and pulp/paper. However, massive awareness campaigns, training and regulations have been imposed in order to look into other aspects of the industry, not only on economic viability. Sustainability of the industry is also being considered.

Karen Rabena
Bamboo Corridor towards sustainable industry
Government-Ilocos Sur
Sep, 07 2015