Major toilet paper manufacturers are wiping out the climate-critical boreal forest

WASHINGTON – 2022 Problem with the fabric sustainability report and scorecard (ranking toilet paper brands from “A” to “F”) released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals that more companies are bringing sustainable tissue options to market than ever, offering consumers alternatives to products from the climate-critical Canadian boreal forest.

Yet America’s leading toilet paper producer, Procter & Gamble (P&G), resolutely refuses to stop producing Charmin with large volumes of boreal pulp, despite directives from shareholders to address the impacts on the forest supply chain and the growing interest of consumers in the purchase of toilet paper and tissue brands that are not complicit in the deforestation of the last forests untouched by industrial deforestation.

“Industry laggards like P&G are fueling a pipeline from tree to toilet that is wiping out some of the most important and environmentally threatened forests in the world,” said Jennifer Skene, NRDC Natural Climate Solutions Policy Manager. “Primary boreal forests – those areas that have never been industrially disturbed before – must be protected if we are to have the ability to avoid catastrophic climate change. Turning them into toilet paper is a climate crime, especially if done by the same companies that most need to step forward to protect our future, ”said Skene.

Many of the major toilet paper brands, most notably Procter & Gamble’s Charmin, are made almost exclusively with virgin pulp sourced from climate-critical age-old forests in the Canadian boreal. The boreal forest is essential in the fight against climate change, as it contains over 300 billion tonnes of climate-altering carbon – double the world’s oil reserves – in its soils, plants and wetlands. The boreal is also of immense value to indigenous peoples and endangered species.

More than 1 million acres of Canadian boreal forest are cleared every year, in part to make the latest disposable item: toilet paper. Toilet paper made from recycled content has a third of the carbon footprint of toilet paper made from trees.

For this year’s Issue with Tissue report and score sheet, NRDC assessed the sustainability of 60 toilet paper brands. The top three major US tissue manufacturers – Procter & Gamble (P&G), Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific – have achieved “F” scores in each of their flagship brands such as Charmin, Cottonelle and Quilted Northern.

However, for the first time ever, Georgia-Pacific secured a “B +” rating in the NRDC report, for a 100% recycled toilet paper brand now available online directly to consumers; Kimberly-Clark made the same move last year. These developments, while minimal and incremental, leave P&G the last of America’s largest tissue companies to still receive direct “F” scores across all of its tissue brands, including Charmin, Puffs and Bounty.

“P & G’s Charmin brand has become a completely misaligned relic with the urgency of the climate crisis we face,” said Ashley Jordan, NRDC’s Boreal corporate campaign coordinator. “The new toilet paper companies are investing in products that provide healthy options for consumers and the planet. P&G, a $ 350 billion company, has the potential to show true leadership by making Charmin safe for the planet. Our forests and our future depend on it, “Jordan said.

As part of its research, NRDC found that P&G was testing a new toilet paper called Charmin Ultra Eco made with bamboo, now available online for consumers. P&G confirmed the tests, but did not commit to bringing the product to a larger market or engaging in a long-term strategy to stop sourcing from climate-critical forests.

In 2020, a majority of P & G’s shareholders backed a resolution asking the company to determine how to eliminate deforestation and primary forest degradation from its supply chains. However, P&G has failed to make significant changes to fabric procurement, instead employing even more aggressively climate denial and greenwashing tactics to hide its damage to forests and communities.

Key findings of the problem with the fabric The 2022 report includes:

  • NRDC obtained 142 tissue products in three categories: toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissues. Of the 142 products evaluated, 17 received an “A” rating and 17 received an “A +”, with brands using post-consumer recycled content receiving the highest overall ratings due to their lower carbon footprint and reduced impact on forests.
  • NRDC rated 60 toilet paper brands: 12 toilet papers made from rolled up recycled materials with an “A” or “A +” score in the 2022 scorecard, with Trader Joe’s, 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Natural Value and Green Forest winning the first places. Big brands like Charmin and Angel Soft shrugged with “F” scores.
    For the first time, Georgia-Pacific achieved a “B +” after making a 100% recycled toilet paper option available online directly to consumers.
  • Grocery chains such as Kroger, HEB and Ahold Delhaize (owner of Stop & Shop and Giant Food) have expanded access to sustainable products through private lines of 100% recycled tissue products.
  • The number of bamboo brands has increased this year, reflecting the growing market for toilet paper made from alternative fibers.

Courtesy of NRDC.

Featured image courtesy of River Jordan for NRDC.

Related story: California Assembly Passes Groundbreaking Deforestation Bill


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