Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Green Grades 2009 - which company earned top grade for paper policy and what was Amazon's score?

One of the most interesting reports was released few days ago by ForestEthics and Dogwood Alliance. The report, entitled "Green Grades 2009" looks at and grades the paper sourcing policies of 12 office retail, general retail and wholesale/distribution companies.

Among the evaluated companies you can find FedEx Office, Office Depot, Staples, Target, Costco and Amazon.com. The report evaluates the companies environmental performance in six crucial forest-related categories: Chain of Custody, Endangered Forests, Plantations and other controversial sources, responsible Forestry/FSC certification, recycling and education and
other leadership.

The companies were rated in accordance with their performance in these categories. The best scores were given in the office retail sector - FedEx Office got A- and Office Depot got B.

FedEx Office excelled especially in the categories of responsible Forestry/FSC certification and other leadership as the report details:

"The company was also the first with a solid preference for credibly-certified paper (i.e., FSC), and has just announced that most of the paper used in its copy centers will be from FSC sources in the US. FedEx Office has also done the most to encourage its suppliers and governments to manage their forests more sustainably."

Office Depot also got kudos from the report's authors:

"Office Depot does the best job of tracking its forest sources, has the most detailed paper policy, has been the most systematic about avoiding paper from Indonesian Endangered Forest logger Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), and does the best job of tracking its use of post-consumer recycled paper."

Two issues that got the authors attention were usage of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), or other certification labels that according to the authors greenwash Endangered Forest logging and other controversial practices (examples for SFI users: OfficeMax, Xpedx), as well as sourcing paper from International Paper, which according to the report is involved with controversial Endangered Forest logging and has a role in converting forests to sterile tree plantations (examples for customers: Costco, WalMart/Sam's Club).

I was very interested in the scores of Amazon.com, which is the most related company among the companies evaluated to the book market. Unfortunately their scores were disastrous, or in other words their score was F. Here's what the authors had to say on Amazon.com:
"Amazon.com does not have a meaningful paper policy or other key paper- and forest-related sustainability measures, but appears to have no problem with buying and selling paper from Endangered Forests and other controversial sources in the Boreal, Southern US, and Indonesia. The giant online retailer ignored our survey, so questions remain about their paper sourcing practices."

Although I'm not sure how much paper Amazon purchases I have to say these results are disappointing and far from what one can expect from Amazon.com. I was especially disappointed from the fact they totally ignored the survey - that's not the way to treat stakeholders.

In all, though we get a mixed updates - some companies are better, some are worst - the bottom line is optimistic. The authors see the half full glass.

"Companies are using their purchasing power to benefit the environment. Most of the retailers are making large shifts away from controversial sources to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper. Several companies took steps to avoid using paper from endangered caribou habitat, and to encourage Canadian governments and forestry companies to better protect caribou in the Boreal Forest."

It looks like there's still a lot to be done, especially when it comes to wholesalers, distributors and retailers. Still, my hope is that this report will follow the example of Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics which gave the companies evaluated in it a real incentive to better their practices. We promise to follow it closely and report as soon as the fourth report will be released.

Thanks again to ForestEthics and Dogwood Alliance for this ongoing effort and for providing us with this important information.

You can find the repot at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!

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