Major office supply companies and retailers received their report cards today, and while the sector saw overall progress on critical sustainability issues such as Endangered Forest protection, several prominent brands continue bad habits that harm the world's forests, air, and water.
Now in its 4th year, the Green Grades report card informs American consumers and large purchasers of paper products on what companies are doing-or not doing-to safeguard the environment and the world's forests.
While FedEx Office, Staples and Office Depot continue to lead the pack and build upon already high standards, companies such as Amazon.com, Costco and xpedx continue to fall short on critical questions about the sustainability of their products and processes. In the middle are companies such as Target and PaperlinX, each of which are adopting new green paper purchasing policies which, though they leave some key questions unanswered, represent important progress toward really making the grade.
"Office retailers FedEx Office, Staples and Office Depot continue to lead the pack, not only cleaning up their act but also undertaking projects to protect Endangered Forests and improve logging practices on the ground in the regions from which they buy their paper," said Andrew Goldberg of Dogwood Alliance. "Unfortunately a number of distributors and big box companies are still stuck on the basics-buying paper from bad actors and sensitive areas around the globe. Their grades reflect these shortcomings."
The 2010 Green Grades features a new category, SFI Greenwash, to address rampant use of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's phony eco-label on office supply products. SFI labels and certification provide "green" cover for harmful practices such as large-scale clearcutting, Endangered Forest logging, and conversion of forests to sterile tree plantations.
"It's a shame that some US wood and paper producers are spending millions to mislead consumers with SFI marketing," said Daniel Hall of ForestEthics. "That money would be much better spent on protecting remaining natural areas and endangered species' habitats, and restoring watersheds hard hit by years of excessive industrial logging."
A big factor in how these companies impact the environment is whom they choose to do business with. Unfortunately, most of the companies continue to buy from infamous paper companies such as Memphis-based International Paper (IP). IP is aggressively pushing for the introduction of dangerous genetically engineered trees into US forests. Meanwhile, PaperlinX's North American operations are joining a number of other office companies that are avoiding Asia Pulp and Paper, a notorious Indonesian company responsible for massive destruction of some of the globe's last remaining old growth rainforests.
This edition marks the fourth straight year that environmental groups Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics have collaborated on Green Grades, and the report card has helped catalyze considerable progress by the sector over the years. For example, this year's grades reflect a growing commitment to protecting Endangered Forests around the globe and increased scrutiny of the impact of company paper habits on global climate. There is also an increased commitment from a number of companies to better practices via use of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system.