Sponsored Article: Office Depot Europe

Companies have been transitioning from solely managing an environmental department to building a comprehensive sustainability strategy. Office Depot's Shela Fletcher takes a look at the trends that are driving these changes


As there is no universal definition for all activities that represent being a good corporate citizen, many terms are misunderstood and used interchangeably in the market place including environment, green, sustainable, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and triple bottom line. To simplify and strengthen its activities, Office Depot has developed an easily understood internal framework to help guide its programme.

Positive impact

To be truly sustainable, a business must strive towards economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability.  The ultimate goal of all three is to have a lasting and positive impact on prosperity, people and planet (see chart below).

Why the preference for the term Corporate Sustainability (CS) over Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? In practice, CS and CSR are commonly attributed to covering all three areas and hence are not truly different. However, with CSR containing the word ‘social’, and not  ‘social and environmental’, CS might be a better umbrella term. Regardless of what you call it, the benefits of such programmes positively impact customers, businesses, communities and the environment.

  • Economic sustainability

All businesses must be economically sustainable. The old adage of profits vs people/planet is simply not true. Forward-thinking companies know that for long-term viability, they must examine profits in tandem with people/planet.

Prosperity is very important for the jobs we provide to our employees, for the business we offer to vendors and for the valuable products and services we deliver to our customers. Equally important is the adage of ‘no margin, no mission’ – without profits, there can be no investment in our environmental or social initiatives.

  • Social sustainability

The three high-level categories for social sustainability are charity, social compliance and diversity. The Office Depot Foundation is the bedrock of our charity and community outreach programmes. Focusing on children and disaster relief, it provides assistance to people around the world.

Social compliance typically refers to labour practices. In our case, it’s for the legal and ethical treatment of factory workers creating our products. And lastly, diversity refers to internal and vendor inclusion. Diversity/inclusion policies have been historically different in the US and Europe, but are now becoming more closely aligned.

In the US, we have a mature vendor diversity programme promoting commerce between Historically Underutilised Businesses (HUB). HUBs include, among others, women, minority and/or veteran-owned businesses. In Europe, however, diversity/inclusion is just starting to show signs of importance and we’re investigating smart next steps for our business.

  • Environmental sustainability

Office Depot has built a strong environmental programme for over ten years. Our motto has been to increasingly buy greener, be greener and sell greener. This also aligns to the corporate sustainability framework: buy greener (greener vendors), be greener (greener operations) and sell greener (greener products and services). We are continually recognised for our commitment to transparency, in particular for annual reporting of our environmental progress. For our latest data, please visit www.officedepotcitizenship.com

Leadership initiatives

Office Depot aims to be at the forefront of our industry and we are proud to be working on three groundbreaking initiatives: SOfEA, EU retail OEF and Source with Confidence.

  • SOfEA

This year Office Depot Europe became a founding member of the Sustainable Office European Association (SOfEA) along with other industry players including manufacturers and resellers. The association’s long-term goal is to create standard industry-wide evaluation ratings for sustainable products on environmental and social performance. Our intention is to classify and measure sustainable products in order to provide guidance for our customers. Much progress has been made since its inception and it’s projected to be completed by 2019. For more information, visit www.sofea.eu

  • EU retail OEF

For another ‘first’, in 2013 Office Depot Europe became a founding participatory member of a study commissioned by the European Union – the retail Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) initiative, moderated by Quantis.

Office Depot, together with other retailers, is providing practical input on the potential for EU guidance on how to calculate the environmental footprint for a retailer or e-commerce business. The aim is to enable organisations and customers to make better decisions based on economic and environmental information. Measuring one’s footprint is the first step.

Although there are no guarantees that the group’s recommendations will ultimately be adopted and turned into policies, we have benefited from sharing sustainability ideas with fellow retailers as well as learning more about the latest footprinting techniques. The final sector rules report is due out in 2016. For more information, visit www.ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/smgp/oef_pilots.htm

  • Source with Confidence

Next year, Office Depot will begin piloting a brand new online platform which is designed to track environmental and social attributes from our vendors for the products we sell. This will allow instant information sharing for customer reporting and decision making.

Partnering with Newleaf Sustainability Practice, our project developer, the concept was among six finalists nominated for the ‘2degrees Sustainability Champions 2014 Supply Chain Management’ award. For more information, visit www.sourcewithconfidence.com