Making the Transition from Forests to Farms

Making the Transition from Forests to Farms

As people shelter-in-place across the country, we’ve seen our relationship with toilet paper change dramatically. Kimberly-Clark makes nearly all its trusted products, including Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle, in the U.S. at one of its 15 manufacturing sites, and our people are working hard to close the gap on the sudden demand.

The experience has also led people to ask where toilet tissue comes from, and most will point to trees. That’s largely true today, but far from any forest, Kimberly-Clark continues to innovate new sources of environmentally preferred fibers for our product – and the answer to traditional tree fibers may lie with farmers.

In Kansas, as farmers were working to clear the wheat straw from their fields, Kimberly-Clark’s fiber development team looked at how to help farmers find new ways to get rid of the straw. Jessica McCarty, an expert on crop residue at Michigan Tech University, explained that, “The easiest way is to burn it, but that impacts air quality. If there was an economic way for farmers to reutilize their wheat straw, I believe burning would just about go away.”

The team started by calling farmers in the area to obtain samples of wheat straw. Kimberly-Clark’s engineers and scientists then developed methods for extracting fiber from the straw, and the team formed new partnerships to begin purchasing wheat straw directly from local farmers.

The Appalachian Woodlands Alliance (AWA) is another example of how Kimberly-Clark is working with individual landowners in sustainable forestry management. This unique relationship creates economic benefits across the supply chain, and ultimately, provides a way to protect both the ecosystem and the livelihoods of these landowners for generations to come.

Kimberly-Clark has committed to source 90 percent of fiber used in its tissue products from environmentally preferred fiber sources by 2025 and working with farmers in Arizona and across the U.S. will get it closer to that goal.