Staples creates sustainable products

Paper products from Staples' Sustainable Earth line.

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Kai Ryssdal: Do you have a green team at the office? The people who take away all the styrofoam cups and paper plates and tell you to bring your own china and silverware? We had a certain transition period when that happened here at Marketplace.

The office products company Staples has what it hopes will be a profitable alternative: Selling recycled or compostable stuff directly to companies, not consumers.

Eve Troeh reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


Eve Troeh: When a major company like Staples launches a new business-to-business line like this, it's never out of the blue.

Cary Krosinsky works for TruCost, a firm that helps businesses measure their impact on the environment. He says Staples is responding to huge corporations that have announced their plans to cut waste and carbon pollution.

Cary Krosinsky: It's a kind of domino effect, actually. They're going to be holding their suppliers to account for their sustainability.

Staples likely wants to be on good terms with companies like Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble that have made environmental commitments. Its Sustainable Earth line now offers things like compostable forks napkins with recycled paper. Those can help companies meet their "green" goals.

Krosinsky says it's a proactive move by Staples, because suppliers that don't have green products may find themselves in sticky conversations.

Krosinsky: When you're called by, say IBM, or one of your numerous other corporate clients, they might wonder why you aren't doing something like this.

In terms of impact, things like reducing factory pollution or using non-toxic chemicals, are usually more important than recycled coffee cups. But business consultant Deborah Fleischer says companies that "go green" also want visible efforts. That gets employees on board.

Deborah Fleischer: 'Wow, we're using recycled things in the break rooms, we're using recycled things in the bathrooms.' I think it just makes them feel like the company's actually walking the talk.

And, she says, "feeling green" is an important part of ingraining sustainability into corporate culture.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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