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, 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 12,000 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 environmental features grew notably in 2014. We had $4.16 billion in sales of products with one or more environmental features, which represents 30% of total product sales in the U.S. Meanwhile, U.S. sales of products meeting our criteria for more advanced environmental features were over $2.05 billion, or 15% of total sales. Sales of third-party certified eco-responsible products were nearly $2.26 billion, and sales of products with recycled-content materials were more than $1.43 billion. Globally, sales of products with one or more of our many environmental features reached more than $5.4 billion in 2014.
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:
View this video as an example of the procurement training assets being developed by the SSIL to educate professionals about the environmental impacts of their purchases.
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 to help us improve paper-product sustainability, and 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 several years, Staples has used SmartSource 360 with more than 30 Tier 1 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 and participated in two responsible fiber sourcing events in China.
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 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 should reduce corrugated use by 15% 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 2014, the weight of all packaging materials used per package shipped decreased by 11%. Corrugated cardboard used per package decreased by over 8%, and air pillows used per package decreased by 80%. 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.