The shutdowns that occurred at the height of the pandemic caused both organizations and individuals to face a harsh reality: our impact on the environment is a lot more substantial than we previously thought. As more organizations return to business as usual, they’re taking the learning from the past two years and exploring new ways to drive eco-friendly changes.
Here, Staples Professional President Michelle Micuda discusses what it truly means to run a sustainable business and how Staples Professional is leading its customers into a greener future.
Q (Staples Professional): In your own words, what is sustainability in business?
A (Micuda): To me a sustainable business is one that is always considering its impact on the world, including the environment, its communities, employees, customers, and suppliers. It’s a business that’s working every day to reduce the negative impacts and increase the positive impacts on the world. Every business has a part to play in contributing to the health and sustainability of our planet for future generations. We as business leaders can do that by making our offerings and operations as sustainable as possible.
Q: What is your vision for sustainability at Staples Professional?
A: We are dedicated to being a leader in sustainability and embedding those efforts into every part of our organization. Sustainability is and will continue to be a core part of our culture. For us, it’s about involving all stakeholders in our journey: our associates, customers, suppliers, and community.
A pride point for us is our commitment to continuous improvement and finding new and improved ways to conduct our business responsibly. One of the ways we demonstrate this to our customers is by maintaining ISO 9001 and 14001 certifications.
Q: Why is sustainability important for business?
A: First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do for our planet and for each other. The connection between the environment, education and businesses is a powerful and important one. As the Working and Learning company, our goal is to find ways to help Canadians personally and professionally, and aid them in making good sustainable choices.
Q: Staples Professional has continued to improve on its sustainability efforts, not only from an operational standpoint, but in product offering as well. The 2020 CSR report noted that there are over 2,000 Eco-Level 1 products and over 600 Eco-Level 2 products to choose from, including the latest, Coastwide Chemicals. How do these actions toward improving sustainability ultimately benefit those further down the supply chain?
A: We know our customers are looking to improve their sustainability efforts and rely on suppliers like us to present solutions — that’s a serious responsibility we have. When it comes to helping our customers, I think of it in three ways:
1. Products. We want to make sure we provide a broad selection of eco-conscious products that perform well. For example, in the height of the pandemic, many customers were looking for proper ways to recycle masks and PPE. Through our suppliers we sourced LifeCycle Revive PPE Recycling Boxes where customers can drop their masks and then send them back for proper recycling. Masks contain polypropylene and shouldn’t be disposed of in the garbage. This recycling method ensures we’re avoiding the landfill while recycling the materials to create polypropylene pellets, contributing to a circular economy.
2. Recycling programs. Our stores and delivery drivers not only take back the corrugated boxes we deliver orders in, but also accept/collect ink, toner, electronic waste (computers, printers, phones, batteries) and office products like pens.
3. Education and data. We play a role not only in increasing awareness of sustainable products but also creating education within the organization. More customers are now looking for ways to reduce small orders to drive their sustainability metrics. They’re also interested in understanding how much of their spend is going toward sustainable products. We’re here to help them improve their business by providing reporting and benchmarking as well as sharing our internal best practices, and in turn, they share theirs which helps us improve our operations.
Q: Whether it’s from customers or other organizations at large, are there any impactful sustainability trends in business you’ve observed?
A: Throughout the pandemic more customers have been asking about their supply chain — not only about efficiency, but also about reliability and sustainability. Second, businesses are focused on education and how they can drive change, both with their associates and the customers they are servicing.
Businesses are looking to make these changes as easy as possible and they’re leaning on us to ensure sustainable products are part of their shopping experience. With this in mind, we’ve re-introduced Switch to Eco, a feature on eway.ca that provides eco-friendly alternatives at checkout.
Q: What is Staples Professional looking to do in the future to support sustainability? What do you want to do more of?
We want to continue to provide sustainable products and services, scanning the market to find the best to bring to our customers and look for new recycling program opportunities. We also want to continue educating our employees and customers. Our Spotlight events will play a big part in that.
Community is the other extremely important connection point. We work and have partnerships with some great sustainability partners like Tree Canada and Bullfrog Power. We want to continue to encourage our associates to get involved in their communities, whether that’s planting trees or supporting one of our customers’ causes.
Lastly, we need to continue to build on our sustainable operations to reduce our environmental impact. That also includes our supply chain and ensuring we have great practices in terms of vendor and product selection, packaging minimization and inbound deliveries.
Q: What strides has Staples Professional made in working towards sustainability goals?
A: Over the past two years, on average, each of our facilities have saved over 238 MT of greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to 598K miles driven) through a reduction of energy and natural gas use. As well, Staples Professional has offset over 630 MT of carbon emissions through the purchase of clean, renewable energy from Bullfrog Power.
In the past six months, we’ve also implemented a new and improved transportation management system. It gives us the ability to optimize our daily delivery routes and minimize our fleet’s carbon impact. In the next six months you’ll see our investment in electric vehicles come to fruition across several markets in Canada. I’m excited for these next steps we are taking to reduce our carbon footprint.