A blog focused on sustainable business issues and challenges

Sustainability at Staples

August 04, 2009

Staples is the world’s largest office products company, and odds are, you’ve already used something this week (if not today) that was purchased from a Staples store near you. With $23 billion in sales and operations in 27 countries, the Staples name has become somewhat synonymous with office supplies, technology, and business services. But, have you ever wondered about sustainability at Staples? Specifically,  I’d like to know this: How is the company rising to the challenge of environmental stewardship?

For answers to questions like these, I recommend a great feature article from World Trade Magazine last week. In “Staples Nail Sustainability,” author Gail Dutton sits down with Mark Buckley, vice president of environmental affairs at Staples, who offers lots of details about the company’s ongoing commitment to a wide range of CSR initiatives.

“We’re trying to weave in sustainability ethics into the way we think about business,” Buckley says, pointing out that Staples is specifically focused on four key areas:

  • increasing the availability of eco-friendly products
  • making it easier for customers to recycle
  • boosting energy efficiency through renewable power, and
  • providing environmental education for its customers.

The article also makes it clear that the company’s enterprise-wide emphasis on sustainable practices is now beginning to permeate the supply chain, as well. For instance, Buckley reports that Staples now gives preference to suppliers that can deliver goods with greater recycled content or that are proactively looking at their own operations to increase their own sustainability. In addition, in 2007, the company conducted more than 375 social accountability audits at 300 factories throughout the world to ensure that these suppliers meet expected ethical standards.

All of which, as I’ve posted about before, have been shown to translate into benefits to the bottom line.

“It’s good if Staples’ sustainability and ethics programs move the market in the right direction, but the programs all have to pass the usual return on investment hurdles,” Buckley concludes.

For more information, see Staples’ 25-page 2007 corporate responsibility report, titled “Staples Soul Report,” available at http:// www.staples.com/sbd/img/content/soul/pdf/2007_staples_soul_report.pdf .

I’ll also be on the lookout for updates when Staples publishes its 2008 sustainability report later this year.

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