Corporate sustainability leaders take note. In February of this year, without much fanfare, Office Depot revealed an update to its pioneering 2004 Green Purchasing Policy for Paper Products. The official media announcement only went public just today. But it is a policy worth talking about. One of the many positive elements of the update is its alignment with the Environmental Paper Network’s green leadership scaling system for individual paper products known as The Paper Steps.

The new policy incorporates what Office Depot and its sustainability leader, Yalmaz Siddiqui, have learned over the past nine years as active trailblazers in the responsible paper discussion. The new policy offers leadership and useful examples for a large range of companies – from those looking to establish their first paper purchasing policy to those seeking to continue to improve as leaders in sustainable paper production and consumption.

Mr. Siddiqui stated in a release, “The new policy 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 very significant commitment to bringing clarity to our question ‘what is greener paper?’ – a question that has heretofore been surprisingly difficult to answer.”

The preamble of the policy includes a very clear, easy to understand message to the marketplace and a promise to its customers: “We remain committed to using recycled fibre, supporting responsible forestry certification, with a preference for Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) fibre, increasing supply chain transparency and growing markets for greener paper products. We remain committed to avoiding paper products from: illegal sources; forests being actively converted to non-forest use; High Conservation Value forests (unless FSC certified or progressing to FSC); genetically modified or engineered trees; or forests where harvesting is documented to negatively impact human rights or labor rights.”

The policy then employs a system with three basic steps:

1.  Exclusion of certain sources due to unacceptable risk

2.  Screening for minimum requirements/prerequisites that have to be met

3.  After “Required Exclusions” and “Minimum Requirements” are met, Office Depot associates are asked to maximize sourcing of greener papers, from their “light green” to “mid green” to “dark green” specifications, as quickly as feasible. [See policy for specifications for each shade of green.]

This new approach, which recognizes a range of “green” paper products, rather than imposing a strict “either/or” approach, looked to the Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Steps for guidance. EPN believes that this type of balanced methodology accelerates innovation and transformation in the paper supply chain by sending consistent signals.

The Paper Steps uses a scoring system and considers bleaching, certification by FSC, recycled content and use of agricultural residue as indicators. Leadership paper products that are available in the marketplace are recognized and listed in the related Canopy/EPN Eco-Paper Database.

Office Depot’s new policy includes tracking and reporting on its success. This transparency is key to leadership in the coming decade, as consumers and investors become more skeptical of greenwashing and empty commitments by companies seeking to exploit the green wave. The transparency in Office Depot’s new policy will be a crucial asset as they continue to pursue leadership in corporate social responsibility, and strengthen their credibility with the conservation community.

If you are looking to increase the sustainability of your brand or office, and want to learn more about social and environmental risk and opportunity in the paper supply chain, contact the Environmental Paper Network to be connected with experts that can help.

To read today’s official press release from Office Depot, CLICK HERE.

To read the full policy, CLICK HERE.  

To see the EPN’s Paper Steps, see below or to download a PDF click here –>  THE PAPER STEPS

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