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Sustainable Products

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. We work with suppliers, such as HP, Domtar, International Paper, Epson, Avery Dennison, 3M, Apple and our own Staples Brands Group have invested in sustainable product development to bring more greener products to market.

In stores and online, Staples offers customers more than 10,000 eco-conscious products, including items that meet some of the most stringent environmental standards like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper products, Green Seal™ certified cleaners, and ENERGY STAR® certified technology. Our Easy on the Planet site has more information about our assortment, and tools and tips for customers shopping for environmental products.

Our U.S. sales of products with one or more environmental features were $2.98 billion in 2013, or 22% of total U.S. product sales. Meanwhile, U.S. sales of products meeting our criteria for more advanced environmental features were $1.97 billion, or 14.5% of total sales. In fact, sales of advanced environmental products increased 20% from 2012 to 2013 in the U.S. driven in part by our increased assortment of FSC-certified papers, greener Own brand products, and ENERGY STAR technology products. Globally, sales of products with advanced environmental features were more than $3.25 billion in 2013.

Collaborating to advance product sustainability

Staples has been supporting independent research to advance our work 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:

  • 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

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 collaborate with several non-profits 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 online 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 two years, Staples has rolled out SmartSource 360 to more than 30 suppliers in Asia and elsewhere to gain additional visibility into the wood fiber sourcing practices of our paper-based products. To help build capabilities with our suppliers, we have hosted several training sessions for our suppliers and participated in two responsible fiber sourcing events in China over the past two years.

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.

Staples partners with several organizations on our paper sustainability initiatives:

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Carbon Canopy

Forest Legality Alliance

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

Rainforest Alliance SmartSource

RIT Golisano Institute for Sustainability

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 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:

  • Increasing our offering of safe workplace solutions, including our Sustainable Earth by Staples™ cleaning products. These products perform equal to or better than conventional or competing products and have a reduced effect on environmental and human health when compared with competing cleaning products that serve the same purpose. These products are designed and/or certified to meet third-party standards for greener chemistry developed by credible, independent organizations like EPA Design for the Environment (DfE), Green Seal™ and GreenGuard.
  • Partnering with collaborative groups that drive the advancement of green chemistry, green engineering, safer chemicals and more sustainable products in the marketplace.
  • Responding to market demand for high-performance products designed and made without hazardous chemicals; plus promoting the use of chemicals, processes and products that are inherently less hazardous.
  • Working with our suppliers to eliminate hazardous chemicals and transition to safer alternatives.

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

Business NGO Working Group

Clean Production Action

EPA Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling Program

Green Chemistry Commerce Council (GC3)


Health Product Declaration Collaborative

Lowell Center for Sustainable Production

Northwest Green Chemistry Center

Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC)

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


Our new 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 corrugated use by more than 15% and void fill use by approximately 60% across our entire U.S. network, and improves less-than-full-case average cube utilization by 20%. It will also 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.

In 2013, Staples used an estimated 36 million pounds of corrugated cardboard, as measured by the amount of materials purchased. This represents a 10% decrease from our 2011 baseline. We also decreased air pillow use significantly — the number of pillows decreased by 24% and the weight of pillows decreased by 72% between 2011 and 2013.

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.

Smart-Size Packaging

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