The solution to climate change doesn’t come from our individual choices—it falls on big changes from big businesses. We now know only 100 corporations are responsible for the overwhelming majority of our global carbon emissions, but we hardly hear about how mega-corporations are destroying our planet’s most climate-critical forests for profit. In fact, it turns out that one of these destructive businesses is in our own backyard.
Procter & Gamble (P&G), the giant home-goods manufacturer based in downtown Cincinnati, refuses to face the truth about its toilet-paper brand Charmin. The company claims Charmin and its other single-use tissue products are simultaneously made with 100% virgin forest fiber and by using 100% sustainable methods.
Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth
Right now, much of the forest fiber used to make Charmin comes from the Canadian boreal forest, the largest intact forest on Earth and one of our most essential in the fight against climate change. Its lush old-growth trees and sprawling mossy soil store 12% of all land-based carbon on our planet, the approximate equivalent of twice the world’s recoverable oil reserves. Its intact areas are home to tons of threatened wildlife, like the iconic boreal caribou and billions of songbirds, and the forest is also integral to the lives of several hundred indigenous communities, like the Waswanipi Cree.
But thanks to the unsustainable practices of corporations like P&G, this essential old-growth forest is being clear-cut at an alarming rate: one million acres per year, or about 7 NHL hockey rinks per minute. Clearcutting, the logging method used here, is a severe, although common, form of logging that deeply scars the land, causes irreversible harm to forest ecology, and—from microbe to mammal—can permanently destroy entire food chains and drive wildlife away forever. Furthermore, with each flattened acre of woodland, more of the forest’s massive quantity of stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, further worsening our climate crisis.
Given this, why does P&G, America’s leading toilet-paper manufacturer, still use these devastating methods to make its products? After all, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods—two other large home-goods companies—already have their own 100%-recycled toilet paper and paper towels on the market. These manufacturers, unlike P&G, acknowledge the various environmental benefits of making recycled toilet paper that go beyond just avoiding destructive logging.
For example, unlike fresh-cut forest pulp, recycled pulp does not need to be bleached, a process which has historically poisoned waterways with toxic chlorine compounds. Making recycled toilet paper also uses half the water and produces 40% less sulfur dioxide, one-third less greenhouse gases, and half the toxic air pollutants of manufacturing new toilet paper. With so many reasons to transition, it’s no wonder these companies have already moved to 100%-recycled pulp.
Since our massive rally outside P&G’s Annual Shareholder Meeting Oct. 8, UC students like myself have been pushing P&G to join these more progressive manufacturers by transitioning to recycled fiber. For a business that supposedly values innovation and champions social causes, P&G has stubbornly adhered to the status quo and resisted any real structural change.
Instead, executives—like CEO David Taylor—just repeat their weak, greenwashed talking points that use sustainability only as a PR technique. But we know that no number of faulty certifications, replanting initiatives, or PR stunts can cover up the truth: P&G is letting Americans wipe their behinds with climate-critical ancient forests.
At times, the climate crisis can seem too big to tackle. But, when the issue is local, you have a powerful voice. This is your chance to make a difference.
Students from UC, including myself, have spent months pushing P&G to take action on this critical issue, and the company has begun slowly making concessions. We now know that the executives of the company can act on this issue—they just haven’t.
These reluctant executives work just down the road, and we have to keep pressure on them. That’s why we need more engaged Cincinnatians ready to take on P&G through direct action, outreach, and lobbying.
We are counting on P&G to actually uphold its values of innovation and social justice by taking immediate action on this pressing issue. Without decisive environmental leadership from major companies like P&G, we have no chance of overcoming our current climate crisis. Mr. Taylor, you must stop flushing our forests.