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Report Finds Growing Concerns in Business and Consumer Attitudes Toward Sustainability, Hygiene

• In 2012, nearly twice as many U.S. companies had (or were putting) sustainability plans in place over 2011
• Despite recent weather-related disasters, a quarter of U.S. firms (26 percent) have not prepared for how environmental risks impact them
• Half of adults (47 percent) who eat at work do so at their desks – which carry 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat(1)

SCA, the makers of the Tork® brand of away-from-home paper products announces highlights from the third annual Tork Report, a comprehensive look at sustainability issues and hygiene practices among North American businesses and consumers. The 2012 Tork Report, "The Sustainability Gap," highlights areas where companies have made progress in improving sustainability goals but also identifies trends that have taken a step backward. The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 1,015 U.S. and 555 Canadian business professionals and 2,114 U.S. adults age 18 and over.

In 2012, 64 percent of U.S. companies said they had (or were putting) a sustainability plan in place, nearly double the 38 percent of companies that reported this in 2011. Furthermore, 31 percent of U.S firms and 30 percent of Canadian firms say their sustainability plans are having a positive impact on the bottom line. 

The 2012 Tork Report combines original research conducted by Harris Interactive with commentary and additional research regarding sustainability and hygiene from several sources, providing a comprehensive look at one of society’s most important concerns: How we take care of our resources.

“We’ve seen sustainability continue to be important to consumers and business alike,” says Mike Kapalko, sustainability marketing manager for SCA AfH Professional Hygiene in North America. “A real area of concern is the gap; companies reporting they have sustainability plans, yet they ignore the risks to their business from climate change, severe weather, or unhealthy employee habits.”

Moving Beyond Sustainability 1.0
While most companies have acknowledged sustainability as a necessary part of doing business, “most have not thrown their full weight behind the effort,” writes sustainability expert and Tork Green Hygiene Council member Josh Radoff. In his call to action for companies to push further, he notes, “We’ve approached the end of Corporate Sustainability 1.0, where the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and the basic levels of expectations have been met. Thus, there is a large gap between the status quo and the next level of achievement – the effort to dig down to the core of a company’s social and environmental impact.”

In order for businesses and consumers to get to the next level of achievement in sustainability, the 2012 Tork Report points to initiatives that can help. These include:

- Reducing food waste: Americans waste 40 percent of the nation’s food supply, the single biggest contributor to solid waste in landfills.(2)
- Adding a universal sustainability index – a guide to help consumers and companies make smarter product choices – was deemed a good idea by three-quarters of people surveyed.
- Reduce the amount of “green washing,” or false claims by companies that tout a product’s environmental benefits.

Taking Better Care of Ourselves
Sustainability plans should include the health of a company’s workforce, as reflected in the popular notion of the three P’s: People, Planet and Profit. Yet, as a whole, we don’t do a good job of taking care of ourselves, the 2012 Tork Report finds.

There is a substantial gap in understanding why it is important to wash our hands.
Most people wash their hands after using the restroom – although 33 percent of men don’t - we don’t wash our hands after using the most germ-infested items we touch each day.(3) Less than half of Americans wash their hands after using gym equipment, handling money or taking public transportation. Why does this matter? Because countless items – such as microwave door handles, elevator buttons and restaurant menus – are more germ-infested than restrooms.(3)

A downloadable copy of the 2012 Tork Report is available HERE.


1. Desk bacteria from ConAgra Foods and American Dietetic Assoc.
2. Natural Resources Defence Council
3. SCA Global Handwashing Poll, October, 2012

Source: SCA


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