With more than 1 million products available to its retail, online and Advantage customers around the world, the production, transport, use and end-of-life management of Staples’ product assortment represents a large portion of our environmental and social impacts as a company. In addition, our customers are increasingly seeking products that contain safe, nontoxic materials; use resources responsibly; are packaged sustainably; have an appropriate end-of-life solution; and are clearly marketed to enable informed decisions. Staples has a growing portfolio of more sustainable products, including Staples own brand and national brands, to meet customer demand and to reduce our environmental and social impacts. Adopting policies and setting targets communicates our intentions. Assessing the impacts of our products allows us to prioritize our efforts. Relying on third-party expert partnerships bolsters our efforts and credibility with customers.
An increasing number of customers are looking for easy ways to reduce the environmental impacts of running their businesses and home offices. In stores and online, Staples offers more than 13,000 eco-conscious products, including items that meet some of the most stringent environmental standards like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper products, EPA Safer Choice certified cleaners, Fair Trade certified coffees, level® certified furniture, and ENERGY STAR® certified electronics. Staples sold globally more than $5.21 billion of products with one or more environmental features in 2015, or about 29% of our total product sales. And more than $3.03 billion of those sales were products meeting our criteria for more advanced environmental features. For the U.S., 31% of product sales were products with environmental features, and a little over half of those sales met our criteria for more advanced environmental designs.
We strive to make it easy for customers to understand and access our sustainable product offering. For our Staples Business Advantage customers, our Strategic Account Leaders and dedicated Sustainable Solutions Managers can help develop and execute sustainability programs. This includes reporting tools that provide visibility into the percentage of spend with Staples that meets environmental criteria, benchmarking environmental spend against peers, and “eco-alternatives” functionality to help drive increases in sustainable procurement. Our recently re-launched Sustainability Center on staples.com® helps raise awareness about how to identify eco-responsible products and makes it easy for customers to directly shop for those products.
This year, Staples Advantage Europe launched a new customer environmental program called Easy on the Planet, through which Staples and global charity partner Plant-for-the-Planet will plant trees as a reward for our customers’ positive environmental behavior. When customers reduce their numbers of small orders, select eco-conscious products, and consolidate categories with us, not only do we reduce excess packaging and transport emissions – Staples will also plant trees on our customers’ behalf. Plant-for-the-Planet plants trees in the areas around the globe where they have the largest environmental and social impact, restoring eco-systems and creating jobs for communities in countries across the world
Staples has a large, complex and geographically diverse supply chain. Staples partners directly with more than 2,200 suppliers, both large and small, across a few dozen countries, and we spend billions of dollars annually on products that we re-sell to customers across all of our sales channels. We have approximately 400 key suppliers who represent approximately 80 percent of our sales and who we work with most closely to support product promotions and marketing initiatives. Staples sells products and services using multiple business channels, including “brick and mortar” retail, online sales and direct-to-business contract sales, with each channel requiring a unique supply chain process from how we receive products and ultimately deliver them to customers. We sell millions of SKUs, including contract manufactured Staples® brand products, name-brand products, and a portfolio of products sourced through wholesalers. We also operate in more than 25 countries around the world, from North America to Europe and emerging markets, each with its own unique supply chain opportunities and challenges.
For years, Staples has worked with suppliers to advance and improve our offerings of greener own brand and name-brand products. Across our entire assortment, we seek to offer products that meet our customers’ core requirements for quality, features and value while delivering reduced environmental and social impacts. Our key suppliers, such as HP, Domtar, Kimberly- Clark, International Paper, Epson, Avery Dennison, 3M, Apple and our own Staples® Brands Group, have invested in sustainable product development for many years to bring more eco-conscious products to market.
Several years ago, we evaluated our primary product categories to identify those with the most significant environmental impacts. This allowed us to focus our efforts on initiatives in these categories to allow for better transparency into our supply chain and a better understanding of the most relevant issues. While we don’t currently screen all new suppliers using environmental criteria, we do have our Supplier Code of Conduct, which forms the basis of our environmental and social expectations of all of our vendors and own brand suppliers. We expect all suppliers to comply with the policy, and we audit Staples own brand suppliers in high-risk regions to evaluate compliance.
Staples has been supporting independent research to advance our work on sustainable products with own brand and name-brand suppliers on sustainable products. The Staples Sustainable Innovation Laboratory (SSIL) within the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) opened in 2012 with a donation from Staples. The mission of the SSIL is to serve as a high-impact research, outreach, training and education hub that accelerates the deployment of innovative and sustainable business practices. The SSIL is conducting research in various areas, including:
Our Sustainable Paper Procurement Policy forms the foundation of our commitment to ensuring that the paper products we sell are sourced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, and defines our expectations for suppliers of paper-based products. The policy focuses on four key areas:
We collaborate with several non-profits including the Rainforest Alliance and GreenBlue’s Forest Products Working Group to help us improve paper product sustainability. We continue to work closely with our suppliers and other stakeholders to ensure we are improving our forest management practices, protecting endangered and high conservation-value forests and developing more sustainable products.
We are committed to offering our customers environmentally responsible Copy & Print services that meet our high quality standards. Staples® Print and Marketing Services offers recycled and Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC) - certified paper options, while our copy machines are ENERGY STAR® qualified for energy efficiency. In addition, we offer shredding services and eco-shipping options.
The introduction of new chemicals over the past few decades has improved the quality, efficiency and convenience of products. At the same time, Staples recognizes that not all chemicals, materials and products are created equal when it comes to their potentially adverse effects on human health and the environment.
As a result, Staples is committed to offering products that are inherently safer and more sustainable across their lifecycle to help maintain a healthy workplace and environment. Here’s how we’re accomplishing this:
Our recently implemented Smart-Size Packaging system improves our customers’ experience and reduces our carbon footprint. In collaboration with Packsize International’s On Demand Packaging® technology, Smart-Size Packaging produces customized packaging tailored to each order.
This new, award-winning technology reduces corrugate use by 15% or more or more and void fill use by approximately 60% across our entire U.S. network. It also improves less-than-full-case average cube utilization by 20%. When fully implemented, it will translate into a reduction in carbon emissions of more than 25,000 metric tons every year. We have completed installation of this new packaging solution in the majority of our U.S. delivery fulfillment centers.
Our goal is to reduce the amount of outbound packaging used in our United States operations by 20% by 2020 (from a 2011 baseline). We are using a normalized per-package-shipped metric to track progress against this goal, to account for increasing numbers of packages shipped. We measure corrugated cardboard, envelope and air pillow amounts by the weight of materials purchased. From 2011 to 2015, the weight of all packaging materials used per package shipped decreased by 8%. Corrugated cardboard used per package has decreased by over 5%, and air pillows used per package have decreased by 27%. We anticipate finishing implementation of the Smart-Size Packaging system in the next few years, and expect that packaging reductions will be fully realized once this project is completed.
Staples Europe has invested in a packaging technology called Jivaro in the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Spain — with 12 machines active across Europe. Jivaro adjusts the height of the box to the contents inside, eliminating unnecessary space. This reduces cube size of boxes by up to 30% per customer order and translates into fewer vehicles required to serve customers.
We are also continuing to work with our largest suppliers to optimize and reduce product packaging, balancing product protection, marketing and environmental considerations. This includes exploring more sustainable solutions for our Staples® brand products — both in the primary product packaging and secondary master case packaging.