The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number Two                           Late Fall 2001

The Staples Campaign

That innocent-looking Staples store down the street is actually one of the world's largest liquidators of the world's forest. Because Staples is such a massive (and growing) retailer of non-recycled paper products and they refuse to clean up their act, they are the poster child for the destructive timber barons that destroy our forests.

Many environmental groups, both campus-based and nation-wide are participants in this growing campaign, which has been in progress since last semester, but began with the highly successful Home Depot boycott from a few years ago. Our goal is to publicly humiliate Staples and force them to make a commitment to change their behavior. To stop the further destruction of our Forests, we are demanding the following commitments from Staples:

· Immediately phase out all wood and paper products made from old growth fiber.

· Immediately phase out all wood and paper products made from trees growing on U.S. public lands (and thereby set a precedent for other countries to protect their own public lands).

· Commit to achieving 50% post consumer content for all paper products within two years and begin an immediate phase out of all products that are 100% virgin wood fiber.

· Make 100% post consumer paper and paper that is made from agricultural fiber available by allocating permanent shelf space and stocking it in all stores or other points of sale.

· Educate all employees, customers and suppliers about the benefits of recycled paper, recycling, the availability of alternative fibers, and the benefits of healthy forest resources.

For the past year, many small school groups like your own have put pressure on Staples. This is the type of grassroots activism your school group can add to the crushing weight of public pressure that is currently on Staples. Even if your group is small, each retail outlet that is publicly humiliated is another memo that lands on the Desk of Staples' CEO. The coalition protesting Staples is multiplied in strength with each voice added to the choir.

A billboard banned in Boston by AK Media to protect Staples, one of its customers.

Protests, letters to the editor, direct communication to the CEO of staples, petition drives, local boycotts - all are tactics that the coalition is using. One group even got especially creative and showed that Staple "struck out" on it's environmental record. There will be national "days of action," on which date your groups should be active participants. As a member of the SSC's National Forest Protection and Restoration Campaign, your group will be kept aware of these important dates, usually through email. For Staples materials, like nifty postcards you can have signed at protests and the baseball cards seen here, contact Jim Steitz or Dave Westman (1-888-JOIN-SSC).

Call, Fax, and email the Staples CEO! Fax: 508/253-8955 Phone: 508/253-5000


Take your case to the manager before and after - the manager will likely be in communication with his/her supervisor in the Corporate headquarters, taking your message to the highest ranks of the Staples corporation.

Watch out for their greenwash - Lately, Staples has advertised heavily its 20-30% post-consumer recycled paper, and put out signs and fact sheets about its recycled products. Maybe you can grab a copy of this sheet before-hand and make a mock-copy that you can hand out at your protest.

The managers have generally tried to stay low-key during protests - not confronting protesters, not speaking to the media, etc. Plan your protest and media work accordingly - silence is incriminating.

Staples seems to be a very top-down organization. The individual managers are not able to deliver, but the upper management is. Keep this in mind when messaging.

The anti-Staples coalition holds regular "days of action" to coordinate our pressure in large, powerful bursts. Watch for these and schedule your group's protest at your local store to coincide.

Use unscheduled in-store visits. Arrange for a few friends to drop by Staples and ask for recycled paper, then express disappointment at its absence (and don't be fooled by that fake-o stuff that is only 30% recycled fiber). Managers face strong incentives to maximize revenue, and a few impromptu customer complaints will keep the pressure up, even on non-"days of action."

Are there any local stores you can hold up as counter-examples to Staples? Any stores that have committed to recycled and/or old-growth free paper? (Note: Kinkos has announced a no-old growth policy. Though the details are still being flushed out, each store is free to make its' own decisions, unlike Staples.) If you can hold up another copy/staionary supply outlet as the environmental alternative to Staples, you gain an ally and craft a better message. By providing consumers with a clear alternative, the pressure is turned up a notch on Staples to avoid losing customers - commercial peer pressure! Perhaps even a press conference to announce the isolation of Staples is in order.

Are there smaller institutional users that you can use as secondary targets, e.g. other retail stores in the community that buy office supplies from your local Staples? Try going around your local main street, dropping off literature on the environmental destruction that Staples is causing. Perhaps you could commemorate the commitment of stores that choose to buy only environmentally responsible products with a small sign stores can hang in their front window that reads: "This Store is Old Growth Free"

More information on the Staples campaign can be found on the Rainforest Action Network's website at and at

The above information is from the website of the Sierra Student Coalition, the student run arm of the Sierra Club.

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