Office Depot's Campaign to Help Green the Workplace

Office Depot's Campaign to Help Green the Workplace

Office Depot, whose annual Green Guide is a compendium of the nearly 2,200 greenest products the retailer provides, has added a new dimension to its campaign to be the working world's top supplier of eco-friendly office products.

The company recently held workshops around the country called "Smart Steps to a Greener Office" to introduce business customers to the basics of greening work operations and facilities starting with supplies -- from the desktop, to the breakroom and the cleaning closet.
The sessions also include info about how the use of more environmentally responsible products and materials can contribute to points toward a green building rating under the U.S. Green Building Council's standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification in certain areas, such as Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance.

Yalmaz Siddiqui, Office Depot's director of environmental strategy, was the featured speaker at a workshop last week in San Francisco, where close to 100 people turned up for the talk and a mini-expo of products from 3M, Sanford, Pilot, Clover Technologies Group and Mead (here's a post about some of the items that were on display).

The company has since posted Siddiqui's slideshow in pdf form on the company's site at It's good stuff, but nothing beats his live presentation, so here are a few highlights from his talk:

Business Value

The premise of buying green, selling green and being green is business value, said Siddiqui. "You're not just going to go green to go green. It's to save money, do business better -- for better business and ultimately better health, yes, health. There's a great unawareness of how toxic the office is -- and, it's not just the politics -- until the things that make it toxic aren't there any more, like chemicals and materials that 'gas off' emitting fumes."

The Green Transformation

There was a time, he said, when green was "a binary thing, it was green versus not green."  The more contemporary -- and more realistic, he added -- view is that "There's only shades of green, it's a continuum."

There also was time when green products didn't work -- or rather "they didn't work well, and that led to misperceptions about quality," Siddiqui said. That's not the case now, he said, noting the brand Green Works and the slogan, "Finally, green works."

The Myth of the Green Premium

"I hate questions about a green premium," he said, "that's a fundamental flaw about thinking about green." It's smarter to think about savings in the short- and long-term that accrue from purchasing more eco-friendly products, managing their use, reusing with possible and recycling them when necessary, he said.

Developing a Green Procurement Policy

"You may already have a purchasing policy -- most companies do -- you may have one on a site somewhere that no one reads," Siddiqui said. Reading the policy is good, using it is even better, but "if you haven't applied a green filter to that policy -- you're wasting money on paper, ink, toner, office supplies like pens, paper clips, office equipment, lighting, furnishing, end-of-life of products, food receptables, packaging supplies, cleaning, travel," he said, running through a litany of waste.

Navigating a Growing Sea of Green-Labeled Products

The key, he said, is to focus on what you buy for your office and what you care about most, for example, employee health -- and align your greening strategy and purchasing selections with that concern.  When evaluating green labels, he said, "start with the attributes (you require) and then seek the certifications that are relevant for you."

As part of its service for business customers, Office Depot can provide a "green office checklist" as well as consultation, he said. The firm also can provide a review of a company's spending at Office Depot and make recommendations about how savings can be realized by shifting to greener products.

Advice to Those Responsible for Promoting Sustainability in Their Company

“Sell green by engaging others . . . softly,” Siddiqui said. “Sell green by accepting that all steps (in that direction) matter.”

Editor’s note: For more on greening your office and facilities, see Carrie Langford’s post on, A Dozen Tips for the Total Greening of Your Business, and this post about goods featured at a mini-expo last week.

Image courtesy of Office Depot.