Manufacturers cannot afford to view sustainability as a luxury: Kimberly-Clark


Kimberly-Clark ANZ’s Sustainability Advisor Ryan Kane spoke to Brent Balinski about the company’s sustainability drive in the last five years, and the priorities that will take it through to 2020. 

Is committing your company to sustainability worth the effort and expense?

According to Kimberly-Clark Australia, which recently released its five-year sustainability strategy, it’s essential.

The company decided in 2011 – matching a triple bottom-line approach – to approach sustainability in three areas: people, planet and product. Of nine goals among these three pillars, it met eight.

For the planet pillar, for example, it reduced carbon emissions by 37.4 per cent and cut manufacturing waste delivered to landfill by 88.6 per cent.

Ryan Kane, Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility Advisor at Kimberly-Clark – ‎Kimberly-Clark Australia and New Zealand, conceded that while things such as committing to the Forestry Stewardship Council and partnering with WWF-Australia come with their costs, they are also a differentiator in K-C’s market.

The next five years will see the global organisation’s approach shift to five key priority areas: social impact, forests and fibre, waste and recycling, energy and climate, and supply chain.

“For Kimberly-Clark Australia, the biggest shift in our thinking and reporting is based around the social impact stemming from the power of our brands and partnerships,” explained Kane.

“We’re working with our brands to build new capabilities and stronger partnerships to solve environmental and social problems, improve lives and add lasting impact and value.”

“We are also continuing to challenge ourselves to continously improve processes at our manufacturing sites to drive energy efficiencies, emission reductions and waste diversion from landfill.”

Read below for the full Q and A with Kane.


MM: One statistic from the five-year achievements was the reduction by 88.6 per cent of diversion of manufacturing waste from landfill. What steps were needed to achieve this? How was this part of the “planet” pillar managed?

RK: We put a great deal of focus on finding solutions to eliminate waste from our manufacturing sites as well as helping our consumers and customers find solutions for the disposal of our products’ at the end of the products’ lifecycle.

In 2009, our Millicent Mill formed a “Green Team” with an ambitious plan to reduce the mill’s landfill waste to zero by utilising sound diversion and recycling strategies involving employees, suppliers and contractors. The team identified all waste streams that were still going to landfill and classified what could be concentrated, collected and potentially recycled or value added.

At our Ingleburn Mill over the past two years, manufacturing waste going to landfill has increased significantly which has also greatly impacted Ingleburn’s cost for waste management. Since 2013 our Ingleburn Mill team has been working to find a solution for a difficult manufacturing waste stream.

In late 2015, we found an Australian waste management company that can convert this waste into processed engineered fuel pellets to create energy in cement factories. With this solution, our Ingleburn Mill manufacturing waste diversion rates are estimated to have reached over 90 per cent in 2016, getting us back on track to achieving our goal.

MM: Some manufacturers seem to view sustainability as a luxury and an expense. What is your position on this?

RK: Organisations today cannot afford to view sustainability as a luxury. Sustainability and corporate responsibility are so important in today’s challenging business environment and need to be embedded in the overall business strategy of the organisation. Our consumers and customers want to buy and partner with companies that are leading the way in this space. Our employees (and perspective employees) tell us they want to work for a company that does the right thing.


At Kimberly-Clark, sustainability is a key element of our company’s heritage, our business strategy and our vision to lead the world in essentials for a better life. Our commitments and actions are motivated by our values and desire to create a better future.

We see many opportunities for new innovation coming out of the sustainability space. A few examples on how Kimberly-Clark Australia is driving sustainability include:

  1. FSC certification and WWF-Australia Partnership

As one of the first brands to advertise Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on our packaging in 2011, we’ve been continuously supporting the efforts of the FSC to increase consumer and business demand for FSC certified products, the most robust certification scheme for paper products.

Since 2011 we’ve been a foundation partner of WWF-Australia’s Love Your Forests campaign, which aims to raise awareness of FSC as the certification of choice, and the importance of sourcing tissue, paper and timber products from responsibly managed forests.

This a key example of how our efforts in responsible sourcing use the power of the marketplace to end deforestation and safeguard forest ecosystems.

Although our commitment to FSC and our partnership with WWF-Australia comes at a greater business expense, we see operating in this way a given and a differentiator in the market.

  1. Post-Consumer Waste – REDcycle Partnership

We’re taking an innovative approach to the role our brands can play in inspiring a sustainable future and using the power of our brands to make a difference. “Conscious Consumption” is currently a hot topic with “Going Green” currently the number one global consumer trend and number two consumer trend in Australia (according to GFK Roper Research, 2015). This is a key trend that is currently on the top of the priority list for consumers and therefore our customers in the retail space across Australia. In Australia and New Zealand, Kimberly-Clark is supporting Conscious Consumption in many ways. For example, we’re focused on diverting waste from landfill; our partnership with the REDcycle program and retail customers has meant that consumers have recycled over 20 million pieces of K-C branded flexible plastic packaging waste since the beginning of the partnership in 2013.

However, it’s more than just tapping into the green market rather it’s taping into what consumers want. They want to buy from trusted brands, with great quality products that innovate to deliver to their needs. They want to be assured that these products are produced in an ethical way with the highest environmental and social standards, this what the success of our market leading brands is built on.

MM: Could you please tell me about the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent? Does this assume the policy settings staying as they are? How will this be achieved?

RK: At Kimberly-Clark Australia, our local emission reduction goal is to reduce our carbon emissions by 40 per cent from a 2011 baseline which does not include the closures of our Tantanoola Pulp Mill in 2011 and our Albury Mill in 2015. This represents just over a 6 per cent reduction needed by 2020.

In order to achieve this challenging goal, we are continuously improving processes at our manufacturing sites to increase production and energy efficiencies, implementing LEAN energy at our Millicent Mill, and evaluating strategic investments in technologies where appropriate.

MM: Do you believe cutting greenhouse emissions is a goal other manufacturers should be trying to match as a matter of responsibility?

RK: As I mentioned prior, organisations today cannot afford to view sustainability as a luxury. Sustainability and corporate responsibility are so important in today’s challenging business environment and need to be embedded in the overall business strategy of the organisation.

MM: Lastly, on the topic of sustainability, South Australia’s renewable energy adoption has been blamed by several manufacturers (though not everyone, of course) for high power prices. Could you please tell me of the effect of recent power price spikes in SA on your Millicent Mill, and if you blame the state’s eager adoption of green energy sources like wind?

RK: Our Millicent Mill in South Australia, the home of Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex Tissues, Kleenex Cottonelle Toilet Tissue, VIVA Paper towel and Kimberly-Clark Professional products accounts for around 90 per cent of Kimberly-Clark Australia’s energy footprint.  To remain competitive as an Australian manufacturer, solutions to minimise manufacturing costs are very important. For that reason, we invested over $33 million in a cogeneration plant to make our Millicent Mill more energy efficient and help reduce our operational carbon footprint.

Cogeneration means the mill produces electricity from a gas turbine for our site which generates steam and heat that is used to dry our state of the art tissue paper.

By capturing the waste heat in the exhaust of the gas turbine and using it as a replacement for natural gas in paper drying and steam production, the mill benefits from lower energy consumption, lower energy costs and the overall environmental benefits of reduced carbon dioxide emissions. This Cogeneration Plant has set a global Kimberly-Clark energy efficiency benchmark and we have been externally recognised with a number of sustainability awards over the past three years.

The cogeneration facility:

  • Provides 100 per cent of the mill’s steam, 92 per cent of the mill’s total electricity and 85 per cent of drying heat for the line that makes Kleenex Cottonelle and VIVA products;
  • Produce 20MW, enough to power 36,000 average homes making the mill largely self-sufficient in power;

Not only does our award-winning cogeneration facility help reduce CO2 emissions, it also helps save money through energy efficiency. The project has challenged us to think about what else we can do to drive both business and sustainability results.

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