Office Depot Pioneers Transparency System in Paper Sourcing

Office Depot Pioneers Transparency System in Paper Sourcing

Office Depot, working with paper producer NorskeCanada and professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, has pioneered the industry's first independent chain-of-custody system for the sourcing of paper in North America. The system enables Office Depot to ensure that paper used in its printed marketing materials is "environmentally preferable" and establishes a new level of transparency in the process of paper procurement.

For Office Depot to consider paper as environmentally preferable, it must contain post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content or certified content. Certified content refers to fiber sourced from forests that are independently verified as being responsibly managed in accordance with a recognized forest certification standard, along with an audited chain of custody tracking system that verifies the use of the certified fiber in the paper product.

"After more than a year of collaborating with our stakeholders, Office Depot can now track, measure and report the amount and type of environmentally preferable fiber used in our North American catalog and insert paper," said Tyler Elm, Office Depot's director of environmental affairs. "By early 2005, Office Depot will be able to claim that its catalog and insert paper from NorskeCanada is sourced from responsibly-managed forests, certified in accordance with a recognized forest certification standard, and that no fiber from illegal logging entered the supply chain."

Office Depot will identify, track, and report environmentally preferable fiber with the following three separate characteristics:
  1. Responsibly managed: Virgin wood fiber sourced from forests that are certified by an independent third party as being responsibly managed in accordance with a recognized forest certification standard;

  2. Responsibly procured: Virgin wood fiber sourced using procurement systems that require uncertified landowners to meet or exceed government requirements on their forestlands, including Best Management Practices where they exist; and

  3. PCW recycled: Reclaimed wood fiber recovered from the solid waste stream of the end user of the original forest or paper product.
In support of the Company's environmental policies and commitment to greater transparency in paper sourcing, Office Depot tracks the frequency and amount of environmentally preferable paper and publicly reports this information annually in the industry's only independently audited Environmental Stewardship Report.

The development of an independent chain of custody tracking system for its North American marketing papers enables Office Depot to address one of the company's "opportunities for improvement," as identified in the report.

"Our certification audit confirms that rigorous controls, management and reporting systems are in place," noted Bruce McIntyre, leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Sustainable Business Solutions practice for the resources sector. "The independent chain of custody is comparable to other leading certification systems in terms of its mechanics and transparency."

Office Depot sources paper for a portion of its U.S. catalog and advertising inserts from two NorskeCanada mills, and is currently in discussions with other paper suppliers to implement the system. Independent chain of custody verifies that NorskeCanada paper contains 100% certified wood fiber.

"Certification offers a means to understand and promote forest stewardship," said Stu Clugston, vice president of corporate affairs for NorskeCanada. "With our independent chain of custody, we are offering customers who share the same belief in responsible forest management a valuable tool to verify the fibre source and certification standards in the paper they purchase."

In addition to tracking the amount of PCW recycled content in its marketing papers, the independently audited chain-of-custody system will better address the needs of paper buyers such as Office Depot.

"The demands upon supply chain tracking systems have evolved tremendously since the early days of chain of custody," Elm noted. "Traditional systems are linked to specific forest management standards in an effort to promote product labeling, and simply do not reflect the customer's desire for full transparency and the need to monitor, verify and report on the overall environmental performance of paper, regardless of certification systems being employed.

"With full disclosure of the environmental attributes of our paper being the primary objective, we quickly discovered that traditional chain of custody systems were poorly suited to the diversity of certification systems in use across the landscape, the complexity of the forest and paper industry supply chain, and the resulting composition of the final paper product, which often contains certified content from a number of different certification standards," Elm added. "We want transparency, not a label."

"This announcement is a great example of how leadership companies working in collaboration can make values-based business decisions that work for them and provide a roadmap for others," said David Ford, president and CEO of Metafore, a nonprofit organization that works with business and other civil society leaders who recognize the connection between business prosperity and forest integrity. "Office Depot and NorskeCanada have established a foundation for tracking fiber that is transparent and inclusive. This creates opportunities for other environmental attributes of responsibly produced paper to be tracked in the future."