(U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Since 2000, nationwide Staples office-supply stores have been subject to over 600 demonstrations and tens of thousands of letters and phone calls to the CEOs in a fight over the sale of recycled paper. A recent decision by Staples has the company phasing out the sale of paper made from endangered forests in North America and phasing in the sale of more forest-friendly paper.
The Paper Campaign, which spearheaded the movement, is an organization made up of dozens of citizen groups dedicated to moving the marketplace toward recycled paper. Led by San Francisco’s ForestEthics and the Dogwood Alliance out of Asheville, N.C., the Paper Campaign said they hope the rest of the companies in the office supply industry, such as Office Max, Office Depot and Corporate Express, will follow Staples’ decision.
Todd Paglia of ForestEthics said he hopes the industry will step up to the challenge, so the Campaign does not have to aim its sights toward another office supply giant.
“I think that the industry has a choice to respond in kind or fall behind,” Paglia said. “I hope that the companies are smart enough to do the right thing without any other incentives. If Office Max and Office Depot don’t do the right thing, then the campaign will definitely continue with one of them as a target.”
The Staples’ decision is a first for the office supply industry. The company’s new guidelines for the making and selling of forest-friendly paper will have the company averaging 30 percent post-consumer recycled content in all paper sales. This means phasing out purchase of paper from endangered forests, including key endangered forests in Canada and the U.S., and creating an environmental affairs division to report annually on results.
Staples Spokesman Owen Davis said the company is looking forward to the new policy, but also said the company has been environmentally aware for the past decade.
“Staples is very excited about this announcement. It really is a milestone for the industry,” Davis said. “This policy has had a lot of work go into it, and we’re excited about the work that lies ahead to pursue the goals outlined in it. Staples has had a commitment to the environment for many years, including over 1000 recycled products, energy conservation programs and internal recycling programs.”
International Paper, one of the primary logging companies in the southern United States, is also one of Staples’ main paper suppliers. Jenny Boardman from the Consumer Communications department at International Paper said the new policy will not hurt the company, only help it.
“We’ll continue to work with them with our expertise and researchers in the area of forestry,” Boardman said. “We are very pleased to be able to say we are already helping them achieve their goals with their products. In terms of their policy, they are looking to protect endangered forests, and our company doesn’t harvest from there.”
Saving endangered forests was part of the Paper Campaign’s mission when it began two years ago. The group educated consumers, made the media spotlight and worked directly with corporate decision makers to help reduce the demand for paper made from endangered forests and increase the demand for affordable, quality recycled paper.
As the largest grassroots, market-based forest protection campaign, the Paper Campaign gained the majority of its strength from the smaller, local groups, Paglia said.
“This campaign was built from the ground up as a grassroots campaign,” Paglia said. “It’s energy in the field that has kept things going.”
Three Bloomington, Ind., environmental groups helped the Paper Campaign in its fight for environmental protection. American Lands, Indiana Forest Alliance and the IU Student Environmental Action Coalition combined forces during the past few years to help out this forest-friendly fight.
Robin Larsen from the Indiana Forest Alliance said the efforts of all three groups helped the effort.
“Members of all three groups have been instrumental in organizing and carrying out three of the actions we’ve had at the Staples store in Bloomington,” Larsen said.
Local environmental groups have also tried to make sure Indiana University follows suit and uses more recycled material.
“Right now, members of the three groups are working on getting the campus to go ‘tree-free,’ meaning it would go 100 percent recycled post consumer content in all paper products it buys. So far we have had fairly positive responses,” Larsen said. “This is pretty much the largest incarnation of the Paper Campaign in Bloomington.”