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Sustainable Products

In stores and online, Staples offers customers more than 10,000 eco-conscious products, including items that meet some of the most stringent environmental certificates.

In 2012, our U.S. sales of environmental products were $2.51 billion, or almost 15% of total U.S. sales. Meanwhile, U.S. sales of products meeting our criteria for more advanced environmental features (or what we refer to as “eco-conscious”) were $1.64 billion, or 10% of total sales. Globally, sales of these products with advanced features were $2.47 billion in 2012, or approximately 11% of our global sales.

Our Easy on the Planet site has more information on our assortment, and tools and tips for customers shopping for environmental products.

Greener paper choices

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:

  1. Protecting forest resources and communities
  2. Reducing demand for virgin wood fiber
  3. Sourcing from paper mills committed to environmental excellence
  4. Reporting on our progress

We have partnered with several programs to help us improve paper-product sustainability, and will 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.

Through our participation in Rainforest Alliance’s SmartSource program, we supported the development of a Web-based sustainability sourcing evaluation tool for wood and paper products. The SmartSource 360 tool enables large paper buyers like Staples to trace the origins of these products and determine whether responsible sourcing practices have been used. Over the past year, Staples has rolled out SmartSource 360 to more than 30 suppliers to develop baseline visibility into sourcing practices of our paper-based products. We’ll be sharing more specifics of our findings and progress in the spring of 2014.

For several years, Staples has helped lead a multi-stakeholder effort called the Carbon Canopy in collaboration with the Dogwood Alliance. This effort engages other conservation groups, global brands, wood product companies and landowners to protect forests, combat climate change and help develop sources of Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper and wood products. The goal is to create financial incentives in the form of carbon offsets for private landowners to work toward FSC certification, thereby producing a stable supply of FSC-certified wood and paper products. In 2013, the first two forest carbon offset projects of the group were announced, and Staples and Interface became the first two companies to agree to purchase carbon offsets from those projects. The forest projects cover a combined 14,000 acres in North Carolina and Virginia.

Staples partners with several organizations on our paper sustainability initiatives:

Rainforest Alliance SmartSource

Carbon Canopy

Forest Products Working Group (FPWG),
a project of GreenBlue

Forest Legality Alliance

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Cleaner, safer chemicals

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.

safer-chemicalsAs a result, Staples is committed to offering safer and more sustainable products to help maintain a healthy workplace and environment. Here’s how we’re accomplishing this:

  • Increasing our offering of safe workplace solutions, including our Sustainable Earth by Staples™ cleaning products. These products are designed and/or certified to meet third-party standards for greener chemistry developed by credible, independent organizations like GreenGuard ,Green Seal™ and EPA Design for the Environment.
  • Partnering with collaborative groups that drive the advancement of green chemistry and more sustainable products in the marketplace.
  • Working with our suppliers to eliminate hazardous chemicals and transition to safer alternatives.

Collaborating to advance product sustainability

Staples continues to work with suppliers and other stakeholders to continue to advance product sustainability in our Staples® brand and name-brand products. In addition to our work on paper-specific issues, we’re supporting product-related sustainability research. 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:

  • Improving the design of office furniture to reduce the environmental impact
  • Uncovering opportunities for extending remanufacturing cycles for toner
  • Evaluating and mitigating common sources of indoor air pollution in the office environment
  • Understanding the most important contributors to environmental impact across common physical workplaces

Our existing suppliers offer a number of environmental product solutions and we have been improving our ability to evaluate and report on this assortment to establish a baseline for our product sustainability. In the coming years, we’ll continue to collaborate with our suppliers and outside groups to create more holistic metrics for measuring product sustainability. We’ll use these metrics to evaluate our success in offering and selling more sustainable products. Our intention is to focus on “what matters most” within specific product categories. This means finding and reducing the greatest environmental impact of products, from raw material extraction and manufacturing to usage and end of life.

Staples is proud to be a part of these organizations that are dedicated to the safe production and use of chemicals:

Green Chemistry Commerce Council (GC3)

Clean Production Action


Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC)

Health Product Declaration Collaborative

EPA Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling Program

Business NGO Working Group

Smart-Size Packaging: A perfect fit for a greener planet


Our new Smart-Size Packaging system custom builds boxes based on each order. This new technology will reduce corrugated use by 20% and air pillow use by 60% across our entire U.S. network. It will also translate into a reduction in carbon emission of 30,000 tons every year. We completed installation of this new packaging solution in more than 90% of our U.S. delivery fulfillment centers by the end of 2013.

In 2012, Staples used an estimated 45.1 million pounds of corrugated cardboard, as measured by amount of materials purchased. While this represents an increase from our 2011 use (40.5 million pounds), we anticipate our total volume will decrease as we finish transitioning our distribution centers to the Smart-Size machines.

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.

Were also continuing to work with our largest suppliers to optimize and reduce product packaging, balancing product protection, marketing and environmental considerations. This includes making exploring more sustainable solutions for our Staples® brand products — both in the primary product packaging and secondary master case packaging.

Smart-Size Packaging

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