In a reversal of its current policies, papermaking giant Kimberly-Clark has announced sweeping initiatives that will eventually end its reliance on non-sustainable timber, including trees sourced in Canada's boreal forests. Kimberly-Clark is the manufacturer of many top paper product brands, including Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle.

The company has been under pressure from Greenpeace and other environmental groups for sourcing timber from sensitive, biodiverse forests. In 2004, Greenpeace launched an advocacy campaign called Kleercut in an effort to get Kimberly-Clark to embrace more sustainable ways of obtaining fiber for its products.

Five years later, that seems to have been accomplished. By 2011, 40 percent of Kimberly-Clark's North American fiber will be either recycled or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This will also be the absolute deadline for the company to cease using any timber from boreal stands which are not FSC-certified. Kimberly-Clark's eventual goal is to source all of its paper products from sustainable, environmentally responsible sources.

While boreal forests were the focus of Greenpeace's campaign, Kimberly-Clark says its efforts will extend to the protection of sensitive woodlands worldwide. Old and native growth forests provide precious habitat for thousands of threatened species — and storage for nearly 200 billion tons of carbon.

So Kimberly-Clark goes from environmental villain to industry sustainability leader virtually overnight. Now it's on the company's market competitors — Georgia Pacific and Procter & Gamble — to play catch-up.

Greenpeace press release: New Kimberly-Clark policy is a victory for Ancient Forests

Kimberly-Clark statement: Kimberly-Clark Sets the Bar Higher for Tissue Products with Stronger Global Forest Policy

This article originally appeared on Lighter Footstep in August 2009.

Copyright Lighter Footstep 2009