Skiiers on four popular Colorado ski mountains â€“ Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands â€“ wonâ€™t be wiping their noses with Kleenex anymore. Thatâ€™s because Greenpeace persuaded the Aspen Ski Co., which owns the world-renowned resorts, to stop buying paper goods made by Kimberly-Clark, which calls itself a “health and hygiene company” and is based in Dallas. Its brands include Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups and Kotex, as well as the iconic Kleenex.
When I wrote about Greenpeaceâ€™s campaign against Kimberly-Clark last fall (â€œAre Kleenex tissues wiping out forests?), I concluded that the company had mislead the public about its sustainability practices. Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the social investing firm Domini all say the company is a laggard. They allege that K-C buys pulp from companies that log the valuable boreal forest in Canada, and that it does not use enough recycled content in its products. â€œTheyâ€™re way too low when you compare them to competitors,â€ says Richard Brooks, head of the forest campaign for Greenpeace Canada.
Kimberly-Clark positions itself as an environmental leader, and it was recently named to a list of 100 Best Citizens by CRO magazine. It also says it makes paper products from residual manufacturing waste. So there’s obviously a good deal of disagreement here.
But Aspen has come down on the side of the enviros, which tells you something. When a Greenpeace member noticed Kleenex at Aspen last year, he complained to Richard Brooks, who notified the resortâ€™s owners. They studied the issue and this week wrote to Tom Falk, the CEO of Kimberly-Clark, to tell him that the resort company is pulling all K-C products from its ski mountains, two hotels and 15 restaurants. Auden Schendler, Aspen’s director of community and environmental responsibility, wrote:
We are taking these actions because Kimberly-Clark’s use of pulp from endangered forests and lack of recycled fiber in consumer tissue paper products is contradictory to our guiding principles.
The Aspen folks also took down a sign marking a famous spot on the mountain that was heretofore known as Kleenex Corner. No word on a new name but “Post-Consumer Recycled Tissue Corner” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The Aspen Ski Co., as it happens, takes pride in its green practices. The firm buys renewable power and filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the climate change case now awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. You can see why, right? If the planet continues to warm, and the ski season gets any shorter, winter resorts like Aspen will be in a heap of trouble.
Greenpeace’s Richard Brooks, meanwhile, tells me that Estee Lauder and Ikea have begun to phase out K-C products. “They are feeling the pain,” he says.