The Four Organizational Factors That Built Kimberly-Clark’s Remarkable Sustainability Goals

Peggy Ward, director of the Enterprise Sustainability Strategy Team at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, says that having strong support from the company’s Chairman & CEO, his global strategic leadership team, four business units and an external sustainability advisory board have been crucial to building and meeting aggressive sustainability metrics.

Peggy Ward, director of the Enterprise Sustainability Strategy Team at Kimberly-Clark Corporation

As director of the Enterprise Sustainability Strategy Team at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Peggy Ward helps to oversee a company with a long and impressive history. The consumer packaged goods company is 140 years old, and today has 57,000 employees in 36 countries. Every day, more than a billion people use its products, which include Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers and Kotex feminine care products.

Kimberly-Clark’s extensive sustainability efforts have garnered the company numerous accolades including being named to Ethisphere’s 2012 World’s Most Ethical Companies List, recognized by Corporate Responsibility Magazine as one of the top 20 "Best Corporate Citizens" for the fourth consecutive year and being ranked ninth on the 2011 list of the "World's 25 Best Multinational Workplaces" by the Great Place to Work Institute. The company has issued a sustainability report annually since 2003 (see the 2010 report) and is now at work on an ambitious set of 2015 goals, which it calls Sustainability 2015.

In a conversation with David Kiron, executive editor of Innovation Hubs at MIT Sloan Management Review, Ward details the wide-ranging goals the company hopes to meet in the next three years, the organization structure that helped set that direction and the employee engagement project that has achieved 25% participation in its first year alone.

When you talk about sustainability, what do you mean by that term?

For us it’s a couple of things. Our Chairman & CEO, Tom Falk, tells our employees that what’s good for business must also be good for the environment and the people we serve.

We’ve had a longstanding commitment to sustainability. We’ve been in business 140 years, and that’s no fluke. And we’ve established enterprise-wide goals, looking at addressing environmental issues, since back in 1995, ahead of a lot of the current business trends.

Let’s talk a bit about the history before we get into the specifics of your agenda. Why do you think Kimberly-Clark’s sustainability initiative started in 1995?

We could sort of see where things were heading. We knew that while we’ve been complying with regulation and laws and doing more of the compliance-based aspect of environmental management, we could see the cost value to our company.

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