In general society and key stakeholders increase pressure on companies to take on more responsibility in tackling sustainability. As Office Depot prepares to meet future customer demands that we follow sustainable practices, we envision challenges in the following areas:
- Biodiversity & deforestation (forest products)
- Climate change (logistics, both in our own operations and along the supply chain)
- Paperless office
- A more flexible working environment (Flex office)
- Reversed logistics (24h delivery versus deliver & take back at once)
- New innovative services and business models that offer added value - e.g. "one stop shop"
In order to engage various known and even unknown partners to jointly develop new sustainable business approaches, we will need to promote:
- Transparency and openness
- Willingness to embrace ideas and explore new areas
Our initiative called ‘Responsible Procurement what does it take!' is in development and scheduled to go live in 2011. We have noticed that many customers, both corporate and SME perceive responsible procurement being difficult and it is just buying ‘green' products. However we do believe that many stakeholders have to be engaged to ensure commitment, to identify joint areas for improvement, to address the added value and to share results or best practices.
To go beyond product procurement of commodities we have started to identify on local level some very interesting opportunities while at the same time exploring strategic long term possibilities that do require more time, levelling and search for the right partners on a larger scale.
Example 1: Delivering office products and take back waste. In close cooperation with our customer and existing service provider we have initiated the possibility to jointly develop a pilot project that we would like to start in 2011. The customer requested us to identify opportunities that interfere less their business process by for example reducing their number of sub contractors by increasing the share-of-wallet (Office products + printed material + coffee + promotions) that could be combined with waste collection (separation at the source) at the same point of customer contact. The potential impact will significantly reduce the carbon footprint, offers new areas for re usable packaging and strengthens business partnerships.
Example 2: Standardize information that increases transparency when comparing sustainable impact of an application that can be executed in a different way due to new technology. To share information in an office environment there are two mainstreams one being the old fashioned paper & printing versus the new innovative paperless approach. For all stakeholders it is difficult to compare these two mainstreams on various sustainable elements. We encourage stakeholders over the product life cycle to join a co-creation session that in the near future clarifies the best way to share information depending on for example usage, culture, message, location, news value, function, content, supply chain, life time and others to be identified. This requires a round table where producers (paper, printers, servers, pc's and ink-toner), resellers (Office Depot), logistic service providers, installers and end-users participate.
The remaining challenges we face are clarification of roles and responsibilities of the various partners, European and local partner search, simple communication, transparent and open dialogue between the involved partners, engaging end-users, measuring and reporting the added value.
To tackle these we do need motivated partners, sharing time, being patience and celebrate even the smallest success.
Office Depot has identified some first potential coalition partners that have showed a high level of interest. Especially the first example is perceived as being extremely valuable to the various partners because of the customer focused approach that will result in new innovative sustainable business. With respect to the second example that is in an early stage of exploration. We have been in discussion with a few parties to identify possible coalitions and valuable contribution to this project. Depending on societal perception in combination with customer requirements the lead time for these projects will be several years.