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Ethical Sourcing

Staples is committed to providing our customers with top-quality products at a reasonable price, but that are also manufactured responsibly. That means we expect workers making Staples® Brand Products to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect, and that the products themselves are made in an environmentally sustainable manner. In addition, we demand adherence to any and all appropriate international and U.S. laws, regulations and industry standards applicable in the countries where Staples operates.

Staples® Supplier Code of Conduct

To establish clear guidelines for responsible operation, we developed the Staples Supplier Code of Conduct to help ensure every relationship we enter — whether it’s with a supplier, factory or vendor — consistently operates in accordance with Staples’ requirements. The Supplier Code of Conduct (or its equivalent) is included as an appendix to each manufacturing agreement and each supplier is required to comply with its provisions and post the Code in all factory locations manufacturing Staples® Brand Products.

In general, the Code is based on international social accountability standards and contains 10 specific areas of conduct which are each evaluated during on-site audits. The Code is regularly reviewed and reinforced as business needs and requirements change.

Social Accountability Audits

The Director of Product Quality oversees supplier auditing to ensure compliance with the Supplier Code of Conduct. All audits are carried out by external, independent third parties. The Director of Product Quality works closely with the Vice President of Product Development, Sourcing and Quality, who is in charge of producing goods, and with the Director of International Supply Chain, who is in charge of shipping goods from the supplier to the end destination and maintaining compliance with all security provisions. Both individuals report up to the SVP for the Staples® Brand Group.

All suppliers in “at-risk” geographies are required to be audited prior to starting production and are recertified every year. For example, Staples currently designates the following countries as “at-risk” in accordance with industry assessments: China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, The Philippines, Egypt, Argentina and Brazil. Each audit is designed to allow the factory to demonstrate adherence to our Code through onsite verification by a trained auditor. The auditor conducts employee interviews and document reviews to substantiate factory operating practices and rates the factory on a point scale.
A summary of the audit sections and requirements can be found here.

Certain requirements are deemed “Critical” to create minimum standards for each supplier to consistently achieve. Suppliers failing to meet the minimum requirements are required to sign a Letter of Commitment which states their intent to continuously improve and requests a probationary period to implement the necessary changes. They are also required to complete a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) documenting the steps they will take and the timeline for the necessary improvements. Suppliers who meet the minimum requirements but have violations in other areas receive a conditional pass and may also be required to submit a CAP. All CAPs must be approved prior to Staples continuing business with the supplier. Follow-up audits are scheduled at regular intervals to ensure suppliers stay on track while on probation and when all CAP plans have been implemented.

Social Accountability Audit and Corrective Action Process


Results of 2014 Audits


8 inactive suppliers (no Staples® Brand Products are currently being produced there)

Staples did not sever ties with any factories in 2014

*A total of 218 Social Accountability audits were carried out at 191 factories, as some locations were audited more than once.

**Suppliers on probation must complete corrective action to continue working with Staples. In addition to scheduled factory inspections, Staples conducts short-notice and unannounced audits.

Download our Global Code
of Ethics

Contact the Global
Ethics & Compliance Office

Call: 866-294-6446
Mail: Global Ethics Office
Staples, Inc
500 Staples Drive
Framingham, MA 01702

What suppliers must do when failing to meet minimum code requirements:

  • Sign a Letter of Commitment stating an intent to improve
  • Request a probationary period to implement changes
  • Complete a Corrective Action Plan to document when improvements can be expected

If a factory fails to demonstrate progress on implementing corrective action, we end the relationship.

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