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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.

Staples® Supplier Code of Conduct

To establish clear guidelines for responsible operation, we developed the Staples Supplier Code of Conduct. It helps ensure every relationship we enter — whether it’s with a supplier, factory or vendor — is screened, monitored and audited for compliance. In addition to the Supplier Code of Conduct, we demand adherence to any and all appropriate international and U.S. laws, regulations and industry standards applicable in the countries where business partners operate.

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.

In general, the Code outlines for Staples' suppliers our expectation that workers making Staples® brand products are treated fairly and with dignity and respect. The Code also helps ensure that the factories with which we contract operate in an ethical and environmentally sustainable manner and includes standalone environmental and business ethics sections. The Code is regularly reviewed and reinforced as business needs and requirements change.

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 Staples® brand suppliers located in "at-risk" regions were audited in 2013. These suppliers constitute nearly half of all Staples' own brand suppliers (206 of 458 suppliers making Staples® brand products).

Suppliers failing to meet minimum requirements are required to sign a Letter of Commitment, stating their intent to continuously improve, and requesting a probationary period to implement the necessary changes. They are also required to complete a Corrective Action Plan documenting the timeline for the necessary improvements.

Follow-up audits are scheduled at regular intervals to ensure suppliers stay on track while on probation. In addition to initial certifications, all suppliers in at-risk geographies are required to be recertified every year. We plan to continue expanding the audit program as we grow our international presence.

Results of 2013 inspections

Certified On Probation
206 supplier sites in "at-risk" locations
were audited in 2013*
188 18**
Facilities that required Social Accountability audits 206* in "at-risk" locations
59 inactive suppliers (no Staples® brand products are currently being produced there)
Staples did not sever ties with any factories in 2013
Total number of Certified Facilities 458 in all locations

*A total of 238 Social Accountability audits were carried out at 206 factories, as some suppliers 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.

Overview of audits conducted

Business Unit Products Delivered Type of Audit Conducted
Staples stores and
delivery worldwide
Staples® brand products Suppliers in "at-risk" locations
are audited.
Staples Promotional
Products® (SPP)
Products bearing the customer’s name and logo (e.g., hats, T-shirts) Factories are reviewed on a “risk-management basis.” Audits are completed on large suppliers that have long-term relationships with SPP and when reviews are requested by the customer.

Factory certification audit and corrective action process


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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