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Boreal forest photography. Photo credit: River Jordan for NRDC

Agriculture

Major Toilet Paper Makers Are Wiping Out the Climate-Critical Boreal Forest

Top American TP Brands like P&G’s Charmin Get “F” Grades in NRDC’s New Report & Scorecard, As More Sustainable Options Enter the Market

WASHINGTON — The 2022 Issue with Tissue report and sustainability scorecard (grading at-home toilet paper brands from “A” to “F”) released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) reveals that more companies are bringing sustainable tissue options to the market than ever before, offering consumers alternatives to products sourced from the climate-critical Canadian boreal forest.

Yet America’s top toilet paper maker, Procter & Gamble (P&G), resolutely refuses to stop making Charmin with large volumes of pulp from the boreal, despite shareholder directives to address forest supply chain impacts, and rapidly growing consumer interest in purchasing toilet paper and tissue brands that are not complicit in clearcutting the last forests untouched by  industrial logging.

“Industry laggards like P&G are fueling a tree-to-toilet pipeline that is flushing away some of the most environmentally important — and threatened — forests in the world,” said Jennifer Skene, NRDC’s Natural Climate Solutions Policy Manager. “The primary forests of the boreal – those areas that have never before been industrially disturbed – must be protected if we’re going to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Turning them into toilet paper is a climate crime, especially when done by the very companies that most need to step up to protect our future,” Skene said.

Many major toilet paper brands — most notably, Procter & Gamble’s Charmin — are made almost exclusively from virgin pulp from climate-critical, centuries-old forests in the Canadian boreal. The boreal forest is essential in the fight against climate change, holding more than 300 billion tons of climate-altering carbon — twice as much carbon as the world’s oil reserves — in its soils, plants, and wetlands. The boreal also holds immense value for Indigenous Peoples and threatened species.

More than 1 million acres of the Canadian boreal forest are clear-cut each year — in part to make the ultimate disposable, single-use item: toilet paper. Toilet paper made with recycled content has one-third the carbon footprint of toilet paper made from trees.

For this year’s Issue with Tissue report and scorecard, NRDC evaluated the sustainability of 60 toilet paper brands. The top three major American tissue makers ­— Procter & Gamble (P&G), Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific ­— earned “F” scores across each of their flagship brands like Charmin, Cottonelle, and Quilted Northern.

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

“P&G’s Charmin brand has become a relic that’s completely misaligned with the urgency of the climate crisis we face,” said Ashley Jordan, NRDC’s Boreal Corporate Campaign Coordinator.  “Newer toilet paper companies are investing in products that provide healthy options for consumers and the planet. P&G, a $350 billion corporation, has the potential to show real leadership by making Charmin planet-safe. Our forests and our future depends on it,” said Jordan.

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

In 2020, a majority of P&G’s shareholders supported a resolution calling for the company to determine how it could eliminate deforestation and primary forest degradation from its supply chains. However, P&G has failed to make significant changes to its tissue sourcing, instead even more aggressively employing climate denial and greenwashing tactics to hide its harm to forests and communities.

Key Findings of the Issue with Tissue 2022 report include:

  • NRDC scored 142 tissue products in three categories: toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue. Among the 142 products scored, 17 received an “A” grade and 17 received an “A+,” with brands that use post-consumer recycled content receiving the highest grades overall given their lower carbon footprint and reduced forest impact.
  • NRDC evaluated 60 toilet paper brands: 12 toilet papers made with recycled materials rolled in with an “A” or “A+” score in the 2022 scorecard, with Trader Joe’s, 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Natural Value, and Green Forest nabbing the top spots. Major brands like Charmin and Angel Soft brought up the rear with “F” scores.
    For the first time, Georgia-Pacific scored a “B+” after making a 100 percent recycled content toilet paper option available online directly to consumers.
  • Grocery store chains like Kroger, H-E-B, and Ahold Delhaize (owner of Stop & Shop and Giant Food), broadened access to sustainable products through private label lines of 100 percent recycled content tissue products.
  • The number of bamboo brands 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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NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.

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