The site of an industrial manufacturing plant in Cartago, east of San José, is being transformed into a natural haven for wildlife, thanks to plans drawn up by a private research institute for animal and plant species.
Kimberly-Clark, a multinational producer of toilet paper, tissues and personal care items, initially commissioned the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio), to advise on a proposal to put a forest on the 12-hectare site around their new production facility.
But INBio quickly recognized the potential to do more than just plant trees.
A botanist, bird and insect experts, an environmental educationalist and communications personnel teamed up to design a park that will feature not only forested areas but diverse plant life, a butterfly garden, information displays about the species, and recreational space where employees can relax, exercise and even grow their own herbs.
Elena Galante, ecotourism coordinator for INBio, said the design is inspired by the INBioparque in Santo Domingo de Heredia and incorporates flora native to Cartago that will attract many species of butterflies, bats, aquatic birds and insects.
The project is all part of the Kimberly-Clark corporation’s commitment to social responsibility, said Juan Carlos Aguero,manager of the Cartago plant.
“With INBio’s knowledge and experience, we will create a park where industrial development exists in harmony with the environment,” he said, adding that the firm has invested an estimated $50,000 in the initial stages of the scheme.
According to INBio, the Kimberly-Clark project is the first of its kind for a large corporation in Costa Rica.But in recent months several large-scale businesses have approached the organization to discuss similar schemes.
Among them, private bank Scotiabank has confirmed a deal to work on a site in San José.
“It is a growing trend among large enterprises to want to demonstrate a kind of social responsibility,” said Galante. “They want to do something like this for their employees and the environment.”
For INBio, it is a welcome trend, whatever the motivation. “These services are part of our mission to make people sensitive to the environment,” said Galante. “You need to know about nature if you are going to save it. We’ve been researching for nearly 20 years, so this service is one way we can use this knowledge.”
The toilet paper and paper towel manufacturing industry may not often be readily associated with environmentalism. Kimberly- Clark has come under intense scrutiny in recent years from environmental groups, which accuse the company of unsustainable practices in using virgin fiber for its products.
Galante said the INBio team thoroughly researched Kimberly-Clark’s environmental reports and policies related to its business management before embarking on the project.
According to Aguero, Kimberly-Clark complies with the highest environmental standards for the industry and has come out on top of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for personal care product manufacturers for the past two years.
Planting has begun at the site in Cartago and completion of the project is scheduled for the end of 2008. INBio has recommended that Kimberly-Clark open the park to the public and schools to enable education about the species and habitats.
Kimberly-Clark, however, says the park is primarily for the use of employees, though private visits can be arranged.
A Bio on INBio
The National Biodiversity Institute was set up as a non-governmental organization in 1989 to gather and disseminate information about Costa Rica’s diverse species and ecosystems. The institute, based in Santo Domingo de Heredia, north of San José, works with government institutions, universities, and public and private bodies to advise on and promote sustainable uses of natural resources.