When it comes to Office Depot and the environment, the office supply chain focuses on three key strategies:

According to the company's sustainability report, upon which most of this article is based, Office Depot environmental measures include developing green products and services for customers, recycling whenever possible and reducing pollution at company sites as well as fostering responsible forest management and conservation.

Developing green products and service for customers is at the forefront of Office Depot’s environmental efforts.

Office Depot says it was the first retailer in the office supply industry to introduce a green brand. The chain’s Office Depot Green consists of a range of products, including recycled paper, solar charging backpacks and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

The internal line is in addition to the green products the chain stocks from other purveyors. Office Depot publishes a Green Book catalog now with 3,000 green products. That’s more than double the number for sale when the chain first launched the catalog in 2003. Aimed at the chain’s business customers, the catalog also contains tips, buying guides and recommendations.

In 2007, the chain launched the Greener Office to help customers better understand how the green products on offer can make an office more environmentally-friendly. This online guide highlights products including low-emitting chemical furniture and chairs with recycled content.

Office Depot began to offer recycling receptacles for ink and toner cartridges at its U.S. stores in 2003. Customers who return empty cartridges to stores receive a $3 coupon on their next purchase. The chain collected more than 15 million ink and toner cartridges in the first two years of the program.

Four years later, the company recognized the need for receptacles for discarded electronic products at its stores so it launched the Tech Recycling program. Customers can purchase a Tech recycling box at an Office Depot store and fill it with an unlimited number of old computers, fax machines, monitors, digital cameras and other obsolete electronic items. The boxes cost between $5 and $15. The unwanted consumer electronics are ground down into reusable materials, including glass, copper and plastic.

As much as Office Depot helps customers buy greener products, the company also strives to reduce the impact of its stores and offices on the environment. For example, at its offices, the chain uses paper that’s composed of 35 percent post-consumer recycled material whenever possible.

The company built the world’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified store prototype in Austin, Texas in 2008. It includes T5 energy-efficient lighting throughout the store; sensors in break rooms, restrooms and managers’ offices that automatically shut off lighting when the rooms are not occupied; water-efficient fixtures to reduce water usage by 30%; and polished concrete floors that are made of 60% recycled material.

Office Depot has been replacing its fleet of trucks with low-emission vehicles that are on average 40 percent more fuel-efficient. The company also uses Roadnet Transportation software for customer deliveries. The software helps the chain arrange delivery routes so as to reduce the number of miles the trucks have to travel.

The chain has also introduced other pilot environmental programs at some of its operations around the globe. In London, for example, its shops make 75 percent of their office deliveries by bicycle. The chain says that by replacing six vans with six bikes, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions from 320 kilograms a day to 80 kilograms.

This year, the chain will use certified carbon-neutral paper for its European catalog and marketing efforts.

Since paper is an important staple of any office supply store, Office Depot has in recent years embraced more stringent paper-purchasing guidelines and strengthened its ties to groups that promote responsible forestry management. In 2003, the chain launched its Environmental Paper Purchasing Policy by which the company seeks to increase the recycled content of the paper it buys and sells.

Office Depot is also committed to buying more paper and paper-related products from sources that follow the widely-accepted principles of responsible forestry management. The company is steadily identifying and phasing out paper products from sources that do not follow these principles.

In 2004, the chain launched a five-year, $2.2 million program to develop standards and tools to improve forest and biodiversity conservation. The initiative, called the Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, is a joint venture with environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy.

The chain has also taken a stand against illegal logging. Office Depot won’t knowingly give preferred purchasing status to vendors that sell products with wood fiber that is harvested, transported or processed illegally.

For more information on Office Depot and the environment, visit http://www.officedepot.cc/environment/ and http://socialpressofficedepot.com/environmental-initiatives/.

See also:

Green office products