Otway Ranges Environment Network



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3. Kimberly Clark Australia reaction to Otways campaign


From the beginning to the end, Kimberly Clark never made a public statement that acknowledged the Otway forest campaign was having an impact on their Kleenex product sales.

However OREN obtained documents from a public relations conference show just how seriously a threat Kimberly Clark regarded the Otways forest campaign.

In 1997a presentation was put together by a senior Kimberly Clark executive which detailed the concerns and strategies used to counter the Otway conservationists.

These documents was part of a presentation to a public relations conference titled Public Relations Industry Summit Meeting (PRISM) in early July 1997.

A Case Study (July 1997)
By Peter Crowfoot
Corporate Services Manager Kimberly-Clark Australia Pty Ltd

(Extract from page 3)

Competing Interests
Hopefully by now my background setting has crystallised the “real” agenda of the environmentalists which is not really KLEENEX® brand products or Kimberly-Clark activity but a continuation of their 10 year struggle to have not one Otways tree logged.

The evidence of well manaed sustainable forestry is of no interest in their emotive driven push which to date has failed miserably.

Basically, a high profile brand offers the potential community exposure for their protests in preference to yet again taking on the government.

Apart from the initial major players in the early stages of this saga, there are more people dragged into the scene as the phases of the protest unfold.

Consumers, supermarket managers, government officials, print and visual media, KCA employees, university students, environmental groups, hotel management and some of our competitors progressively get involved, some enthusiastically and others reluctantly.

Download (part 1) Kimberly Clark presentation(1.5MB pdf)

Download (part 2) Kimberly Clark presentation(0.8MB pdf)

During this time, there was suspicion among Otway conservationists that Kimberly Clark had sent a few spies to infiltrate OREN to see what was going on.

In Oct 2006 , it was relealed in a ABC TV 4 Corners documentary that Amcor who at the time owned 50% of Kimberly Clark Australia, had engaged company employees to spy on the activities of community groups that where trying to stop native forest logging. This included OREN and the Otways forest campaign.

However for OREN, spies were never going to be a threat to the Otway forest campaign as the whole Kleenex consumer awareness campaign was based on an open disclosure strategy. There was nothing unlawful or wrong with the promotion of environmentally friendly products that do not involved the destruction of biodiverse native forest. OREN viewed the presence of spies as a positive indication Kimberly Clark were indeed worried and that the Otway forest campaign was making progress.

3.1 Kimberly Clark reaction to conservationists

The following timeline highlights Kimberly Clark’s response to the actual consumer awareness campaign.

31 November to mid March 1997
Pressure mounted quickly on Kimberly Clark with conservation minded people contacting Kimberly Clark on its free consumer hotline to complain about its products.  The Kimberly Clark response was to mirror the official forestry department pro-logging propaganda and sent out misleading information packs to to anyone who requested them.

14, 15 March 1997
Kimberly Clark took out full page advertisements in the Colac Herald and Geelong Advertiser. These advertisments were an attempt to refute the successful media coverage linking the Kleenex brand name to the destruction of Otway forests by clearfell logging.

kimberly clark ad
This full page advertisment printed in the Colac Herald (14 March 1997) was also printed in the Geelong Advertiser.

April - June 1997
Kimberly Clark released a propaganda newsletter called Greenspeak (issue seven) which had a focus on Dr Patrick Moore, the so-called “founder” of Greenpeace. In the article, Patrick Moore basically implied all conservationists who were campaigning to halt clearfell logging of native forest are “extremists” who had “abandoned science and reason.”

The front page of this newsletter contained a letter from Hu Davids, a General Manager at Kimberly Clark Australia, who made it clear comments made by Mr Moore were relevent to the debate regarding the Otway forests. OREN viewed this propaganda newletter by Kimberly Clark as an attempt to attack, insult and belittle the integrity of conservations and the broad community who were opposed to clearfell logging in the Otways. Download Greenspeak newsletter issue 7 (pdf).

After the protest at the Kimberly Clark office in Melbourne (See Herald Sun 23 April 1997), Kimberly Clark began correspondence with the National Union of Students (NUS) requesting a round table meeting with Kimberly Clark, conservation groups and forestry bureaucrats to 'consider any proposals from the environment movement.". See Kimberly Clark letter 28 May 1997 (pdf).

NUS on behalf of the conservationists wrote back to Kimberly Clark in support of OREN's refused to not take part in dialogue until Kimberly Clark showed some "goodwill" rather than produce insulting Greenspeak publications. See NUS letter 12 June 1997 (pdf).

Kimberly Clark wrote back to NUS in a letter that indicated a level of contempt and arrogance towards OREN. However Kimberly Clark made a point in this letter they would exit the Otways in the year 2000. See Kimberly Clark letter 17 June 1997 (pdf).

3.2 Supermarket reaction to retail market campaign

July 1997
The first Kleenex supermarket action was organised in Townsville QLD by students attending the Students for Sustainability Conference at the James Cook University.

The supermarket protests were conducted in a manner that deliberately avoided any inconvenience to shoppers. During the protest all the Kleenex and other Kimberley Clark products were taken off the shelves and put into trolleys. Trolleys were not taken near the checkouts as that would clog them up and become an inconvenience to both the staff and shoppers at the supermarket. So trolleys full of Kleenex products were wheeled to the back of the supermarket and abandoned.  When protestors were asked to leave the store by management, they politely left.

Shoppers were amused and interested in the protest and took information flyers explaining why the protests were occurring.

Despite this non-aggressive peaceful action, the Woolworths Statewide Queensland supermarket manager decided to deliberately misrepresent the protestors as aggressive and disruptive on live radio with no evidence.

Interestingly the supermarket spokesman (Burnie Brookes is now CEO of Myers) attempted to protect the Kleenex brand by not mentioning the brand name in public. However when the conservationists got the right of reply to refute claims made by Woolworths, the conservationists could mention the Kleenex brand name as many times as possible.

See 774 4TO Townsville radio transcript from July 1997.

Hence the aggressive position taken by the Woolworths supermarket towards protestors backfired as it caused considerable Kleenex brand name exposure in both radio and TV talkback. The supermarkets (and probably Kimberly Clark) learnt from this and developed a different response to the next supermarket protest is discussed below.

August 1997
Conservationists organised a statewide supermarket action in Victoria. This time supermarkets took a totally different attitude. They just let the protestors take all the Kleenex off the selves and took no action at all. This was done in an attempt to create as little fuss and confrontation as possible. This way the supermarktes would minimise the chances of getting media attention. When the police arrived, they were very polite and asked the protestors very nicely to leave. The police made it clear the supermarket was not going to take any legal action or make a fuss. It was like the supermarket managment knew the protests were going to occur. Again most of the supermaket staff and customers found the whole protest very amusing.

This strategy by the supermarkets worked quite well to protect the Kleenex brand name with little or no media interest in the capital of Victoria, Melbourne. However newspapers in regional cities ran the story. So there was some mixed success from both sides.

See supermarket protest as reported in the Geelong Advertiser, 30 August 1997 Click to enlarge.

3.3 Kimberly Clark Australia reaction to industrial market campaign

OREN worked with the sale executives from alternative supplies of tissue paper made from 100% recycled paper to try and get industrial users of tissue paper to switch from kimberly Clark brands to 100% recycled fibre brands. This incuded lobbing local government municipalities and University Campuses.

Student environment groups were successful in encouraging the purchasing officers from various university campuses to stop buying tissue paper products from Kimberly Clark. There were numerous successes that started to add up to many $100,000’s of dollars in lost sales for Kimberly Clark.  OREN was told by one university purchasing officer, that on the same day Kimberly Clark was contacted and told their contract to sell product was to be cancelled, Kimberly Clark they would fly a sales executive from their Sydney head office to Melbourne to try and turn things around. Usually they failed.

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