Green matters


Staples’ new green strategy
In a bold move that could cause tremors throughout the industry, Staples has announced a new corporate sustainability strategy aimed at driving sustainability innovation in product manufacturing, packaging and distribution. The strategy, named ‘Race to the Top’, was announced in a briefing to Staples’ suppliers in October.
The main premise of the move is to increase environmental, economic and social sustainability and remove waste and inefficiency, therefore bringing more value to the customer. To achieve this, Staples is calling on its suppliers to compete on finding innovative manufacturing, packaging and distributing techniques that will cause less harm to the planet.
Jevin Eagle, EVP of Merchandising and Marketing at Staples, said: "We’re letting our key suppliers know that sustainable business practices will join price, quality and service as a major factor in driving purchasing decisions."
The company’s first step towards implementing its strategy is to ask suppliers to immediately address environmentally sustainable packaging in the next six months, using less or alternative packaging materials for products in Staples’ delivery and retail businesses as well as for bulk shipments. Staples will also collaboratively develop sustainability scorecards for products and packaging. These will track design innovations and environmental attributes in a bid to drive more accountability throughout the supply chain.
"Viewing our business through the lens of environmental and social sustainability will lead to better results for our customers, our shareholders and our communities," said Staples CEO Ron Sargent. "The results of this challenge will help make it easy for customers to run their businesses more efficiently, with less impact on natural resources."
The launch of ‘Race to the Top’ follows a series of industry-changing moves, such as Staples’ decision in 2008 to introduce 50 percent post-consumer recycled FSC-certified paper as its standard offering for high speed black-and-white copying. The question now is how this new strategy will affect the rest of the OP world, and whether sustainability really will become the fourth pillar of business values along with quality, cost and service.
FTC updates to green guidelines
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced proposed revisions to its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims. The guides, last revised in 1998, are intended to help marketers avoid making misleading claims about a product’s or service’s environmental footprint and performance.
The changes, which are intended to bring the guidance up to date, include updates to the use of product certifications and seals of approval, and to what the FTC considers the three main new environmental claims:
• Made with renewable materials – Marketers should qualify claims with specific information about renewable material, and quantify the percentage of this renewable material.
• Made with renewable energy – Marketers should not make unqualified claims if the power used to make any part of the product was derived from fossil fuels, and should specify the source of renewable energy.
• Carbon offset – Marketers should have competent scientific evidence to support their claims and should disclose the offset purchase funds emissions reductions that will not occur for two years or longer.
Says FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz: "What companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things. The proposed updates to the guides will help businesses better align their product claims with consumer expectations."
The changes are being welcomed by environmental bodies as long-awaited updates, but the creator of the Greenwashing Index, EnviroMedia, has warned that the FTC needs to be forceful with advertisers to ensure the guidance is not ignored. "The FTC is trying to help advertisers and consumers navigate the wilds of green advertising, but marketers throw about environmental claims with abandon, and I don’t expect them to stop," said EnviroMedia co-founder Kevin Tuerff. "Due to the global environmental challenges we face, the FTC must come down quickly and forcefully on advertisers that lie."
The FTC will accept comments on the proposed updates until 10 December 2010. For the full changes and to make comments visit
Toshiba saves CO2 and Kenyan lives
Toshiba TEC’s carbon-free printing scheme has removed more than 60,000 tonnes of CO2 from the environment and helped provide more than 4,000 Kenyan families with safer, cleaner stoves.
The scheme was launched in early 2010 following a successful pilot programme as part of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s push for an international effort to get rid of unsafe stoves.
The African Energy Efficient Stove Project, run through UK carbon offsetting organisation co2balance, supplies domestic stoves that use half the amount of firewood of the stoves traditionally used by Kenyan families. As a result, an average of three tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved each year – the equivalent of a car travelling 9,000 miles. Through the scheme, Toshiba customers offset the carbon emissions associated with the manufacture, servicing and daily use of multi-function printers.
Steve Hewson, Marketing Director for Toshiba Tec Imaging, said: "Most organisations these days claim to care about their social or environmental impact, but the practical ways in which they try to achieve their ambitions – by recycling, or encouraging employees not to print documents unnecessarily – can only go so far. If you truly care about running a greener office, cutting your costs and helping the environment, you have to make sure the products you use have sustainability ‘built in’ and that any residual CO2 emissions are offset – completely. The African Energy Efficient Stove Project delivers savings on two continents and means that as well as contributing to your own environmental efforts, you can make a very real difference to the lives of people in East Africa."
Mark Simpson, Managing Director of co2balance, said: "Projects such as this wouldn’t happen without companies like Toshiba, and they result in benefits beyond their original carbon zero ambitions. Because the stoves that Toshiba is funding would otherwise not be installed, children and young people who would be out collecting firewood can now go to school. Deaths from smoke inhalation, a not uncommon side-effect of traditional African cooking methods, are much reduced. These schemes really are that important."
Steelcase on track for 2012 sustainability goals
Steelcase’s 2010 corporate sustainability report has highlighted great strides forward in the areas of sustainable packaging, PVC reductions and environmental education. The global furniture manufacturer is working hard to improve its products and operations in order to meet its environmental goals by 2012 to coincide with its 100-year anniversary.
As well as a series of stories describing Steelcase’s environmental efforts, a number of metrics in the report quantify its successes. For example, since 2001 the company has reduced its waste by 63 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 59 percent, water consumption by 71 percent and volatile organic compound emissions by 94 percent.
Jim Hackett, CEO at Steelcase, said: "There is no standing still in regards to sustainability. There must be movement and progress in order to build a strong future for the planet, its institutions and its people. This belief is deeply embedded in Steelcase’s DNA and continues to focus and inspire us in today’s challenging times."
In 2006, Steelcase committed to eliminating PVC from its products as part of a pledge to stop using substances that can threaten human and environmental health. The company is now shipping PVC-edge free banding as standard on 12 product lines, and leads the industry in terms of PVC-free offerings in North America and Europe.
"PVC may seem like just a small detail that’s easy to change, but in reality it requires an extensive product development effort," said Jeff Bradley, Category Product Manager at Steelcase. "Because of our scope, the scale of our supply chain and the volume of products we produce, it makes us a big piece of the puzzle. It feels good to do the right thing."

Green news in brief
UPM investigates Finnish FSC
Renewable and recyclable paper manufacturer UPM has started testing the new Finnish FSC standard in company forests. Through its testing, UPM’s aim is to fully assess the costs and functionality of the indicators of the new standard, covering their financial, ecological and social impacts. The results will determine whether it will apply for FSC certification for its own forests in Finland.
The standard is the first of its kind in Finland, even though FSC is already commonly used in many countries, and the forest industry, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders in Finland have been talking of such a benchmark for some time. Key environmental organisations have all participated in the consultation process where discussions focused around consolidating financially viable forestry, the environmental aspects and the rights of Sámi people.
The FSC standard is expected to come into force from the beginning of 2011, once it has been approved by the Board of Directors of international FSC.
Kyocera receives industry award
Kyocera Mita UK has won the Sustainable FM Magazine Sustainable Supplier of the Year award in the Office Products category. The office document imaging company won the award for encouraging sustainability in both its own business and in those of its channel partners and customers.
Tracey Rawling Church, Director of Brand and Reputation at Kyocera, commented: "We are delighted to have been successful in winning this award. Kyocera Mita has developed a robust and reliable print technology that helps our customer meet the dual targets of reducing both environmental impact and cost. We have also recognised our responsibility to help users of our products to minimise the impact of their business.
"Our message resonates strongly in the current climate of environmental awareness coupled with business austerity, and we are currently enjoying our strongest sales performance in the past decade. We believe that this success vindicates our core belief that environmental and commercial objectives are not mutually exclusive but instead should be an intrinsic part of any organisation’s business plan."