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Victoria’s new secret: recycled paper

Sarah Gardner Dec 6, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Merchants are pushing paper this year like nobody’s business. Catalog paper, that is. You’ve got the regulars: Restoration Hardware, Lands End and all the rest. But get a load of Victoria’s Secret.

The lingerie company churns out a million catalogs a day. It’s gotten some heat over the years for wasting all that virgin paper to sell push-up bras. So Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Victoria’s going green this Christmas.

SARAH GARDNER: Maybe it was the 750 protests at Victoria’s Secret stores and the headquarters. Or perhaps it was that full-page ad in The New York Times featuring a model in black lingerie brandishing a chainsaw. Whatever the reason, Victoria’s Secret has changed from naughty to nice in the eyes of environmentalists.

TOM KATZENMEIER: I’m proud to announce today that we have entered into a landmark environmental partnership initiative.

That’s Limited Brands executive Tom Katzenmeier today in a conference call with reporters. He announced that Victoria’s Secret will start printing its catalogs with 10 percent recycled paper or other eco-friendly stock. It’ll also start phasing out paper that comes from endangered forests. The pressure group here is a nonprofit called Forest Ethics. Today’s announcement is the result of the group’s two-year campaign against what it cleverly called “Victoria’s Dirty Secret.” Todd Paglia is executive director.

TOM PAGLIA: We don’t think the companies we’re working with are evil. And so, while we’re going to try and go after their brand as aggressively as possible, our whole kind of motto here is being hard on the issues, soft on the people.

That two-faced strategy has already worked with companies like Staples and Williams-Sonoma. But Forest Ethics has yet to charm J Crew and Eddie Bauer, among others.

Catalogs still drive more sales volume than online marketing and companies are loathe to cut back.

Victoria’s Secret will try to use less paper in its racy catalogs but didn’t say how. Skinnier models perhaps?

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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