15 For the Forests: Changing the Office Supply Industry, Starting with Staples

December 19th, 2011 by

Dogwood Alliance is celebrating 15 years of protecting forests, and we’re sharing the stories of our successes along the way with a monthly blog post series, “15 for the Forests.” This is post 2 of 15.

15 For the Forests: Changing the Office Supply Industry, Starting with Staples

After sinking its roots into organizing work with a campaign to stop chip mills in Southern forests, Dogwood Alliance decided to refine its approach in 2000 with a targeted effort to influence the paper marketplace. As it’s first target, Dogwood chose office supply leader Staples.

“Our Staples campaign marked the first time that the paper industry had been challenged in the marketplace,” recalls Doug Sloan, then board chain of Dogwood Alliance. Over two years, beginning with a national Day of Action on November 15, 2000, Dogwood Alliance organized more than 600 protests nationwide.

“We mobilized student groups, individual activists and other environmental groups in a national partnership with Forest Ethics,” says Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director.  “We got the band REM to do public service announcements for us on MTV and VH1. Our executive director, Sarah Hodgdon was interviewed on The News Hour with Jim Leher, CNN Headline News and Marketplace on NPR. It was the first time we were able to engage people across the U.S. and in Canada in our work.”

Dogwood staff and volunteers also maintained a constant pressure on Staples’ leaders. “We would bring up the issues of forest conservation and Staples’ sourcing practices at shareholder meetings, publicly challenging their policies and requesting that they fly over our Southern forestlands to see the impacts of their actions. They agreed, which was a good sign.”

Dogwood Alliance first met with Staples’ leaders in person in January 2000. “They were receptive,” says Danna Smith.  “It took two years of meetings, but they did finally adopt a policy. I remember sitting side-by-side with the vice chairman of their board to announce the end of the campaign and Staples’ groundbreaking new environmental policy. It was a great moment for Dogwood.”

Initially, Staples committed to sourcing paper that was at least 30% post-consumer recycled fiber and to sourcing nothing that is produced from endangered forests. Now their goal is to carry at least 50% post-consumer recycled content or FSC certified content for all of its paper products, making the company the environmental leader for its industry.



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