Supply Chains Expand the ‘Sustainability Sphere of Influence’

By Guest Contributor: Mark Buckley, vice president of environmental affairs, Staples
Staples Eco Easy Truck

As a supplier, Staples shares Verizon’s vision and dedication to sustainability and is committed to lessen the environmental footprint within our collective integrated supply/value chains. We develop innovative sustainable business solutions to help our customers meet both their business and sustainability goals.  

We continuously aspire to be our “customers trusted sustainable business solutions partner.” This is done by providing a wide assortment of products -- which meet higher environmental standards and rigorous third-party certification. We provide comprehensive sustainability reporting to help customers better understand their spending on office products and services and identify opportunities to “green up” their purchasing to meet their environmental goals and objectives.

Increased transparency in complex interdependent global supply chains uncovers hidden opportunities and expands a company’s “sustainability sphere of influence.”

Staples solar campus
Solar panels atop a building at Staples' headquarters in Framingham, Mass.

Reaching across 26 countries, Staples operates in thousands of facilities including offices, call centers, data centers, distribution centers and retail stores. With this global reach comes the management of a large fleet of delivery vehicles. The environmental impact of those facilities and fleets is significant, and like many other companies we have focused on energy, waste and carbon targets to reduce our impact areas. These include but are not limited to:

  • Aggressive energy management has resulted in 30 percent energy-intensity reduction per square foot of real estate and 30 percent fuel efficiency in fleet operations since 2006.
  • 580 Energy Star certified buildings.
  • 100 percent of all United States electricity purchased from renewable energy sources (650,000 MWh annually).
  • One of the largest onsite generators of solar energy in the United States and first company to enter into a power purchase agreement for no-capital solar installations on facilities.
  • Comprehensive recycling and waste diversion programs in all facilities and including organics diversion.

These activities are certainly important as they generate both tangible environmental and financial benefits and continue to help build and foster the development of a global sustainability ethic at Staples. However, under closer examination these impacts only represent approximately 7 percent of our global environmental impact; the other 93 percent reside in the products that our customers consume. So what responsibility does Staples have for the design, manufacture, transportation, use and final disposition of these products, and how can we help impact them?

As a leader, Verizon has established purchasing criteria i.e., sustainably sourced paper, packaging reduction and a goal of 40 percent supplier spending directed to those suppliers with CO2 reduction targets. Verizon actively supports the responsible recovery and recycling of technology either directly or through certified partners and is now using new energy technologies to support smart buildings to reduce energy intensity, cost and Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions.

Hiker Panorama

As a responsible global supplier with these same shared values, Staples has been expanding its sustainable sphere of influence in support of our customers. These efforts include:

  • Established the industry-first paper procurement policy more than 12 years ago to protect endangered global forests and in particular those of high conservation and ecological value.
  • A founding member of the Paper Working Group in 2003 comprised of 10 U.S. companies to create a tool, called EPAT, for procurement managers to evaluate the life cycle impacts of paper.
  • A founding member of the Carbon Canopy, a collaborative formed in 2007 to encourage private forestland owners to certify their lands to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) standards to conserve forests and provide carbon revenue in the form of carbon offsets to landowners.
  • A member of the Forest Legality Alliance, a program run through the World Resources Institute and USAID to prevent illegal timber from entering global wood markets.
  • A member of the World Resources Institute’s Green Power Market Development Group, (12) U.S. companies that in 2002 committed to and delivered the development of 1,000 MW of new renewable energy by 2010.
  • A member of the original U.S. EPA Plug into e Cycling program in 2003 to responsibly recycle e-waste from no-longer-used mobile devices and rechargeable batteries. Staples retail launched the industry-first national program for everyday e-waste take-back in 2007. We are an e-Stewards certified collector, and our recycling partner is both e Stewards and R2 certified and committed to not exporting e waste to other countries.
  • In 2012 funded the Staples Sustainable Innovation Laboratory at the state-of-the-art Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). This world-class institute will work on developing more sustainable products and supply chains and solving some of the most pressing environmental challenges faced by businesses. This research will be publicly shared, and Staples will engage customers and other businesses to apply this research in ways that accelerate adoption and investment in more sustainable business models.

These are just a few examples of the various uncommon collaborations which have helped shape Staples approach to sustainability -- and have helped us to expand our “sustainability sphere of influence.”  This sphere of influence requires that we work collaboratively with suppliers, customers, associates, shareholders, NGOs, government, communities and others to learn and build global solutions which matter.

As a sustainability leader, Verizon’s commitments and “spheres of influence” help drive change and transparency back through a diverse and increasingly interdependent global supply/ value chain. This also requires that we think more holistically and include the use phase of a product as well and responsibly recover, recycle and reuse these resources at the end of their life.  Staples is proud to be Verizon’s office products supplier of choice and as such a trusted extension of its supply/value chain.

Verizon’s commitments and requirements drive us to become a better, more sustainable and responsible company through Verizon's expanded sphere of sustainability influence.