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New Office Depot Purchasing Policy Refines Definition of ‘Green’ Paper

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Office Depot, Inc. has released a new greener paper purchasing policy designed to increase its use and tracking of environmentally preferable paper products.

The new guidelines – drafted over a 12-month period with input from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), other environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and several paper suppliers – updates the company’s 2004 paper policy. The updated policy has garnered support from a wide range of forest sector stakeholders. The policy scope includes all paper purchased or sold by Office Depot globally, with initial implementation focused on high-volume categories such as copy paper and marketing papers, and a secondary focus on other paper-based office products and delivery packaging.

“At its core, this new policy is about clarity and implementation,” said Yalmaz Siddiqui, senior director, environmental strategy at Office Depot. “It builds from Office Depot’s leadership policy of the past but is now structured to allow better tracking of progress along a ‘shades of green’ continuum. The detail we put into this policy reflects our significant commitment to bringing clarity to our question ‘what is greener paper’ - a question that has heretofore been surprisingly difficult to answer.”

By continuing to strengthen and refine its purchasing policy, “Office Depot is bolstering its commitment to help protect the world's forests,” said Linda Walker, North America Manager of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), a program that engages with companies committed to responsible production and sourcing of forest products. “We applaud Office Depot’s commitment to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, transparency and publicly reporting its results.”

As an active GFTN participant, Office Depot agreed to update this policy, set targets, and publicly report on its progress toward responsible fiber sourcing goals. Highlights of the new paper policy, and major changes from the earlier version, include:

  • Minimum requirements for fiber from specific forest certification schemes: The previous version of the Office Depot paper policy had a preference for “certified” fiber but gave no guidance on which forest certifications were acceptable. The new policy includes Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI); American Tree Farm (ATF); Program for Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC); and FSC Controlled Wood schemes as minimum requirements. As of early 2012, 91.6% of Office Depot North America’s copy paper sales by weight were to SFI, PEFC or FSC certified, with the vast majority (81.5%) certified SFI or PEFC. Minimum requirements are to be pursued for all paper products.
  • Acceptance of all major forest certifications but preference for FSC-certified fiber: The prior policy treated forest certifications equally, while new wording gives preference to FSC. This was partly based on recommendations to Office Depot from leading ENGOs, but also reflects Office Depot analysis of the principles and on-the-ground practice of forestry in FSC-certified forests. This new preference for FSC is also intended to help increase the Company’s overall use of FSC fiber, which currently stands at 10.1% of its virgin copy paper by weight in 2011.
  • Explicit exclusions: The earlier policy gave guidance on preferred attributes of paper products but limited direction on exclusions. The new policy is more explicit in terms of excluding unknown or unwanted sources such as fiber from High Conservation Value Forests or illegal logging.
  • Recognition and support of “shades of green” in terms of paper sourcing: Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the new policy is that it is not ”binary,” in that it does not set a single point at which paper becomes “good,” and below which it is “bad.” The policy recognizes that the goal of environmentally preferable purchasing is to continue seeking products that have lower environmental impacts than typical alternatives. The policy also recognizes fiber options that reduce pressure on natural forests – such as high recycled fiber or agricultural/plant based fiber from certified responsible sources – as increasingly greener.  
  • Commitment to set targets and publicly report progress: As part of the policy, Office Depot has committed to setting targets on specific aspects of the policy and reporting progress against those targets.

“Office Depot's updated paper policy reflects the importance of knowing what's in your paper and how to reduce your impacts on the world's forests,” said Joshua Martin, director, Environmental Paper Network. “By aligning to aspects of the ‘Paper Steps’ approach from the Environmental Paper Network, Office Depot is employing a sophisticated, scaled approach to developing a responsible supply chain.” 


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