Retrieving Ocean Plastics Transforms Kimberly-Clark Scientists into Advocates

By Tracy Doucet, Senior Director of Research & Engineering, Kimberly-Clark Global Nonwovens
Jan 27, 2020 7:15 PM ET
Campaign: Plastics Footprint
Leaders from the public and private sectors attended the Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit where participants experienced hands-on ocean plastics retrieval. Photo Credit: Bryan Liscinsky

We’ve all heard the news that there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish by 2050. It’s a difficult concept to grasp. Experiencing it first hand is even more daunting.

Last May, I attended the first-ever Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit, which convened businesses, nonprofits, academics and nongovernmental bodies in the plastics supply chain on a four-day sea-based expedition.

We experienced hands-on ocean plastics retrieval as well as collaboration sessions to address the plastics life cycle, pressure points, needed innovations and partnerships across the public and private sectors. The summit was later chronicled in Outdoor Magazine, whose editor was amongst the attendees.

I’m proud to lead Research and Engineering for Kimberly-Clark’s Global Nonwovens business where our role is to provide the company with product innovation through new materials. As a business leader and innovator, the Ocean Plastics Leadership expedition transformed me—both personally and professionally.

Personally, it has led me to alter my family’s lifestyle to try to eliminate non-essential single-use plastics. Professionally, seeing the impact plastics are having on our environment inspired me to challenge the teams I lead to accelerate solutions.

And I wasn’t alone. Lori Shaffer, Kimberly-Clark’s Global Nonwovens Front End Innovation Director, and Cristine Schulz, Global Sustainability Leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional™, attended as well and left inspired to renew their commitment to create the most environmentally responsible materials, products and packaging.

Since the expedition, I’ve had the privilege of serving as the executive sponsor for our Global Nonwovens accelerated sustainability strategy and execution.  I am committed to leading my team to leverage its expertise in materials science and innovation to reduce plastics in its products, targeting 100% responsible solutions from source to shelf and shelf to source.

Last week, SoulBuffalo announced the formation of the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network and I am proud that Kimberly-Clark has joined as a member of this network, where a community of leading companies and NGOs are committed to solving the ocean plastics crisis.

This enormous challenge is also an incredible opportunity for Kimberly-Clark. We have a strong history of innovation and the door is open for us to be a leader in this space. It is our responsibility to create the most environmentally responsible materials and products for our consumers, our families and for the future of our planet – and The Ocean Plastics Leadership Network will help guide us in the right direction.