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 user 2003-10-14 at 10:23:00 am Views: 61
  • #7722

    Headline: tree poweR

    While it is still very much cool to be green, Boise’s latest declaration leaves Office Depot firmly in environmental campaigners’ sights

    Another month and another raft of green proclamations from “caring, sharing” corporate America.

    But amid the various OP related news releases in the past month (for example: ‘Office Depot extends ink and toner recycling programme’) by far the most interesting and significant was the new environmental statement issued by Boise Cascade.

    Depot said it would stop using timber from endangered or old growth forests in the US from the start of 2004. It also said it will no longer purchase wood products from endangered forests in such countries as Chile, Canada and Indonesia.

    Boise is of course, a huge user and producer of paper goods. In addition to its office supplies business and imminent takeover of OfficeMax, there is the paper and building supplies businesses. The declaration, which CEO George Harad says “formalises Boise’s commitment to environmental stewardship”, follows three years of campaigning from pressure groups like Rainforest Action Network, which helped develop the policy. During this time, companies such as Kinko’s, ceased buying Boise products.

    Campaigners have welcomed Boise’s new stance. Michael Brune, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, says: “We congratulate Boise for joining the growing number of US companies that have taken steps to protect the world’s last remaining endangered forests. Boise’s leadership will be an important catalyst in ensuring that these areas are protected for future generations.” Now Rainforest Action Network is looking for other paper products companies such as Georgia-Pacific and International Paper to follow suit. “Logging, distributing or selling endangered forests is a barbaric, outdated practice that has entered its endgame in the American marketplace,” reckons Brune.


    The declaration has been sufficient, for the time being at least, for The Paper Campaign, led by ForestEthics and the Dogwood Alliance, to call a halt to its dispute with OfficeMax, given its impending marriage to Boise.

    Many observers credit The Paper Campaign’s two-year long offensive against Staples as a main reason for the power player’s new greener policy, a drive which culminated in some 600 demonstrations outside Staples stores across the USA and Canada, backed up by thousands of letters, postcards and phone calls to Tom Stemberg and Ron Sargent.

    Since peace broke out between campaigners and Staples following its new environmental policy, attentions have focused on a Stop OfficeMax/Depot initiative. But given Boise’s latest proclamation, ForestEthics and Dogwood’s energies are now focused on Depot.

    Depot of course, released its own environmental paper procurement policy shortly after Staples did in November last year. But it did not go far enough to satisfy dissenters, who accuse Depot of selling paper coming from endangered forests.

    ForestEthics’ executive director Todd Paglia says: “Unlike industry leaders Staples and Kinko’s, Office Depot has failed to create an environmental policy that protects critical endangered forests including the Boreal forests of Canada, forests of the American Southeast and the rainforests of Indonesia.

    “If Office Depot truly intended to ‘retail smarter’, it would make an environmental commitment that meets, if not exceeds, its industry’s standards.”

    ForestEthics and Dogwood appear to be ramping up their efforts against Depot. In June activists ‘bird-dogged’ (editor’s note: heckled) CEO Bruce Nelson during a presentation at the University of Florida’s Retailing Smarter Conference.

    A similar episode was staged last month when Nelson was presenting at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York, with protestors disrupting Nelson’s speech and holding aloft a banner proclaiming “Office Depot destroys Forests”.

    Next on the campaigners’ agenda is a National Day of Action, due to be held on 8 October, with the organisers imploring supporters to picket stores, hold demonstrations and contact local media among other things.

    Going on recent history, it would appear that environmental pressure groups in the USA carry a real clout. On that evidence, do not be surprised if Depot revises its environmental policy in the near future.

    OPI invited Depot to comment but we had not received a reply at time of going to press. However, there did come the news that it had appointed a director of environmental affairs – the aptly named Tyler Elm.