ForestEthics and Dogwood Alliance have published their fourth Green Grades, the annual report card on the paper practices of the office supplies sector in the US
Green Grades has grown in scope and stature over the years. After initially focusing on pure office supplies resellers, the 2009 scorecard was expanded to include wholesalers/distributors such as United Stationers and PaperlinX, and mass market retailers such as Wal-Mart and Amazon.
Unsurprisingly, the office retail companies generally still come out on top in 2010, having had two years’ head start over the other sectors in terms of knowing what is expected to achieve a good grade.
"The office supply sector really stands out with FedEx, Office Depot and Staples being so good, and working to be even better," says Andrew Goldberg, Director Corporate Engagement at Dogwood Alliance.
"A big take away is that these leadership companies are putting their money where their paper comes from by investing in projects that are working to improve forest management practices on the ground in the US south and in the Canadian Boreal," continues Goldberg. "This kind of leadership by Staples and Office Depot was hard to imagine just four or five years ago, but is quickly becoming the standard by which other large paper customers will be judged."
"We give a lot of value to the Dogwood Alliance Green Grades report," Yalmaz Siddiqui, Director of Environmental Strategy for Office Depot, told OPI. "It represents a strategic shift by the activists that we think is vastly superior to the protests/campaigning of the past. It addresses one of the most material environmental impact categories in the OP sector – paper – and many customers in the sector want to know about their paper suppliers’ environmental credentials."
Siddiqui feels that Office Depot deserved a B+ rather than a B, based on its achievements during the past year. Perhaps that will come next year as Depot has stated that it is committed to ensuring 80 percent of marketing papers come from certified well-managed forests, with 40 percent from FSC-certified forests.
Another company which has embraced the paper scorecard is United Stationers, which achieved at B- grade this year, up from a C in 2009.
"We’ve been working hard on our sustainability initiatives for a number of years and are really excited about our grade," says United’s Carol O’Hern. "When I look at the work we’re doing, it isn’t an easy B- by any means, and is the result of a lot of hard work."
O’Hern says that United’s own paper procurement policy document is key to achieving a good grade and the company entered into a dialogue with ForestEthics, which helped to have a third-party view and assessment and provided some pointers to areas of improvement.
"Dialogue with our paper suppliers is also absolutely critical," adds O’Hern. "Basically, what we do is mandate that all of our suppliers fill out a questionnaire and we actually survey our suppliers and understand the forests of origin for all of our products. If we feel that a supplier is sourcing from controversial forests, we work with them so that they look for alternative solutions."
One company that has come in for strong criticism from Green Grades – and 2010 is no exception – is International Paper which, along with Asia Pulp & Paper, is highlighted as a company to avoid.
"International Paper has never lost a customer for any reason related to on-the-ground forestry or environmental practices," the company told OPI in a statement.
"Our entire legacy US mill system is third-party certified to the FSC, SFI and PEFC chain-of-custody standards," the company continued. "All of [these mills] have been third-party certified to the FSC Controlled Wood standard as it relates to fibre sourcing. The primary objective of this standard is to avoid the use of wood from ‘unacceptable’ sources and allows wood that is not certified to the FSC forest management standard to be certified as ‘controlled’."
IP concluded: "As FSC certified wood fibre is still currently scarce in the US Southeast, we feel that ForestEthics should be applauding International Paper for meeting the Controlled Wood standard."
Dogwood Alliance’s Andrew Goldberg recognises that IP has made steps with its FSC chain of custody certification, but adds: "It’s important to realise that CoC certification is just a small step towards real FSC certification, and should not be considered a sufficient assurance of environmental protection by itself."
FedEx Office A-
"FedEx Office’s policy covers the basics, and the company has aggressively avoided paper from Endangered Forests and unsustainable plantations in Indonesia and elsewhere, though they still offer a small amount of third party brand paper from the US South. The company was the first in the sector with a solid preference for FSC paper, and avoids SFI greenwash. FedEx Office has also encouraged suppliers and governments in the US South and Canadian Boreal to manage their forests more sustainably. The company can go further in sourcing recycled paper, but has a new internal paper recovery program."
"Office Depot does the best job of tracking its forest sources, has the most detailed paper policy, and is the most systematic about avoiding paper from Endangered Forests in Indonesia. The company also helped leverage conservation gains in the Canadian Boreal, is shifting more of its paper to FSC, and has committed to phasing-out use of the SFI logo on Office Depot brand papers by early 2011. While some of its paper still comes from plantations and Endangered Forests in the US South, Office Depot is engaging the supplier and supporting projects to improve other private landowner practices there."
"Staples has particularly ambitious goals for shifting to FSC and recycled paper, and is making good progress. The company also avoids the worst Indonesian Endangered Forest logger, supports conservation in the Canadian Boreal, and is helping to improve forestry practices in the US South. But Staples still sources from tree plantations and Endangered Forests in the US South for some of its house-brand paper, and gives partial recognition to the SFI in its paper policy."
United Stationers B-
"United Stationers has a relatively strong policy for this group, and the policy now guards against plantations and no longer recognizes the SFI. The company also avoids Indonesian forest destroyer APP, is committed to shifting its SFI-certified Universal brand paper to FSC sources, and is strengthening its chain of custody system. United Stationers is also helping to leverage conservation gains in the Canadian Boreal. While United Stationers is still sourcing some third party brand paper from the US South, the company is now engaging the supplier."
"PaperlinX is adopting a new paper policy for its North American operations, which have a strong offering of FSC papers, plans to address sourcing concerns in the US South, and is phasing out paper from APP, the worst logger of rare Indonesian forests. We are hopeful the company will also eventually eliminate APP and other controversial sources from its other operations, and disassociate its Discovery brand paper from SFI greenwash."
"OfficeMax is slowly improving, now offering a significant array of recycled and FSC-certified papers, while avoiding controversial Asian sources. However, their policy has huge gaps, and their chain of custody system relies on paper-thin schemes such as the SFI. OfficeMax also sells paper from Endangered Forests and plantations that are replacing natural forests in the US South, displays the SFI greenwash logo on its house brand papers, and is counted as a ‘supporter’ by the SFI."
Walmart/Sam’s Club – D+
"While Walmart/Sam’s Club is known for other sustainability initiatives, its paper practices have not kept pace. Its paper policy has major gaps, relies on SFI greenwash, and does not address millions of tons of newspaper inserts. The company also sources from International Paper and other suppliers connected to Endangered Forest logging and tree plantation conversion. Walmart/Sam’s Club also actively touts the SFI as ‘green,’ and is even trying to increase some of its SFI product lines."
"Amazon.com does not have a meaningful paper policy or other basic safeguards and goals. Indeed, the company appears to have no problem with buying and selling paper from Endangered Forests and other controversial sources, including in the US South. Some Amazon.com subsidiaries are also using the SFI greenwash logo on their paper-based packaging, and Amazon.com has publicly expressed support for the SFI."