When looking for a company that understands the coordinated effort it takes to become environmentally and socially sustainable, look no further than Office Depot. This company demonstrates that embracing ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives impacts customers, suppliers, and communities in many positive ways.
Office Depot believes that sustainability plays an essential role in the success of its company, its industry and the communities they serve, now and for future generations. Sustainability is an important element of a company culture built on 5Cs – Customer, Commitment, Caring, Change and Creativity. Talking to Zulema Ledesma, Senior Manager of Sustainability at Office Depot, about the company’s 5C culture and ESG initiatives, it is easy to get a sense of the company’s deep commitment to caring for people and communities, while also making a measurable contribution to meeting sustainability goals.
TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE
Office Depot believes environmental sustainability and social impact play an essential role in the success of people, customers, communities and the company. They have a triple bottom line sustainability perspective – people, planet, and prosperity. Zulema brings the perspective into focus by explaining, “A lot of times people associate sustainability only with the environment, but that’s changing to embrace ESG. We also focus on our people and communities, and how we are taking care of them, so everyone is prosperous through what we do.” Zulema’s role is to initiate, communicate, and integrate environmental programs and coordinate with core functions (including merchandising, procurement, supply chain, facilities, and marketing) to achieve an exponential impact.
The 5C culture drives company goals, initiatives, and interactions with associates (employees), business customers, suppliers, and communities. Each touch point is viewed as an opportunity to advance sustainability. “Our business customers look for partners they trust and will help them meet their own sustainability goals,” says Zulema. To earn that trust, Office Depot puts a lot of time and effort into ensuring the resources are in place and available to them, so they can meet their goals. Resources include The Green Book® Virtual Catalog, Office Depot® Greener Office™ Rating System, and the Greener Purchasing Program, among others.
Social initiatives, like the #depot difference community investment program, focus on empowering education, championing entrepreneurship, and strengthening communities through a variety of volunteer and philanthropic initiatives. The ODP Corporation, parent company of Office Depot, also founded Elevate Together™ powered by Round It Up America®, a nonprofit initiative designed to address systemic discrimination and historical racial disparities in business growth and profitability in Black and Hispanic communities. Office Depot also maintains a robust Supplier Diversity program that helps them identify and deliver innovative, quality products and services across all business channels, while enhancing the development and opportunities for a vast network of diverse suppliers.
USING METRICS TO DRIVE ESG SUCCESS
As Zulema focuses on ESG initiatives, she looks for ways to integrate her efforts with other functions and programs. “Diverse suppliers are under the supplier diversity umbrella, but what we do is try to highlight a lot of our diverse suppliers in The Green Book® Catalog. The Green Book® has a section dedicated to diverse suppliers and also highlights eco-conscious products,” says Zulema. She works with suppliers on their environmental product claims to correctly capture the information in Office Depot systems so that accurate reporting can then be provided to customers who seek to track their greener purchases.
Office Depot tracks many environmental metrics, including greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, waste and greener product sales. They use these metrics to report on their public-facing goals and include in their annual Sustainability Report.
ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE AND ESG ARE A PERFECT PAIR
ESG is so embedded in everything Office Depot does that it is an integral element of the organization’s culture. Zulema says, “Many of our associates look for a place to work where they feel proud, and one that shares their values. They can see Office Depot’s commitment to the environment, to diversity and to the communities where they work and live.” Associates turn their pride into personal commitment with many of them asking how they can get involved.
The 5C culture is expressed in every company effort. How does change affect customers? How does an initiative or decision impact associates, community members, and the environment? Caring is a core value.
The biggest challenge, according to Zulema, is that it takes a lot of coordinated and persistent effort to create a culture like the one Office Depot nurtures, especially with thousands of associates around the country. “How do we make sure we are raising awareness, getting them onboard, and helping them get as excited as the sustainability team is to bring change and make an impact on greenhouse gases, climate change and local communities?”
NATIONWIDE LOCAL COMMUNITY
The effort is working. The community investment initiative #depot difference is associate driven. There are key markets in which centralized events are held, such as the Start Proud!® initiative, where18,000 backpacks filled with school supplies are distributed to more than 25 Title 1 elementary schools nationwide. Office Depot headquarters is located in Boca Raton, FL, but associates who are located in markets where these events and others like them are held, can participate in their local communities. Zulema says, “Our local community is the entire U.S.”
Zulema’s philosophy is that everything people do contributes to a bigger picture, whether you are an individual or a big corporation. All of the collective actions determinethe impact and really makes a difference on a daily basis. It is not one person or one company – everything each person does is part of a larger effort. “I frequently hear things like, ‘Why should I put my bottles in the recycling bin.’ It’s because if everybody does it, it makes a real impact. We have to keep our focus on things like climate change because we want to make this world a better place for generations to come.”
GRANDER GOALS IN THE WORKS
Office Depot also believes it has much more it can do in environmental sustainability and is working on putting together more aggressive greenhouse gas emissions goals, as well as goals in other areas such as customer solutions and business operations. As the company understands its impact in a grander way, it can understand opportunities across the board. Given past effort, there is no doubt Office Depot can achieve these new goals in the ESG arena.