Forest campaign targeting Staples Inc. escalates

Ad campaign featuring major rock band coincides with over 100 protests across the country, company responds to pressure

provided by The Paper Campaign


ith demonstrations in over 125 cities across the country this past April and the launch of a paid media campaign featuring R.E.M., The Paper Campaign, which currently targets Staples Inc. for its irresponsible purchasing policies resulting in the unnecessary destruction of America's forests, has escalated it efforts to pressure the company. Staples is responding.

    The R.E.M. public service announcement (PSA) for the Paper Campaign premiered at an exclusive Vanity Fair Pre-Oscar Party, which was attend by more that 60 celebrities, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ingo Rademacher, Ed Begley Jr., and Wendie Malick. The PSA sends a positive message about the importance of protecting America's forests.

    “Insist that the paper you use is tree-free,” says R.E.M. front man Michael Stipe in the spot being aired. R.E.M. was attracted to the issue, saving forests, and was also compelled by The Paper Campaign's approach to forest protection, markets campaigning, which involves taking its environmental message directly to the marketplace instead of using legislative or litigation strategies.

    “Market campaigns, like the one being led by the Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics, are the most effective way to cut to the chase and protect our forests,” stated guitarist Peter Buck.

    Citizens are taking the band's message directly to Staples, urging the company to stop destroying endangered forests and become a leading retailer of recycled paper products. Based on a figure quoted by Staples' executives in November of 2000, 97% of the copy paper Staples sells comes from forests – a mere 3% from recycled and tree-free sources.

Market forces


    Markets campaigns, which are a relatively new tool for the environmental movement, have proven to be highly effective, leading to victories like Home Depots' decision to stop selling endangered-forest products, which caused a chain reaction of similar commitments across the do-it-yourself wood products retailers, including Lowe's. The goal of The Paper Campaign is to initiate a similar chain reaction in the paper retail market. Staples was chosen as the first target in the campaign because it is the world's largest and fastest growing office supply superstore.

    “With groups like R.E.M. lending their support to The Paper Campaign we are confident that our first target, Staples Inc., will get the message that waging war on the environment is a losing battle,” said Todd Paglia with ForestEthics. Despite the fact that nine out of ten Americans favor the protection of wilderness and open spaces, including forests, (LA Times poll, 4/30/01), Staples' largest selling copy paper, the redbox store brand, is made 100% from trees, with 0% recycled content.

    “Make no mistake, paper production is driving the destruction of forests, water quality and quality of life,” states Danna Smith of the Dogwood Alliance. “Ron Sargant, Staples CEO, has an opportunity to be a hero by setting a trend in the paper market that will ensure that we leave a natural legacy for our children and future generations.”

Staples responds to mounting pressure

    In response to the campaign launched one year ago, Staples recently introduced two new lines of recycled paper containing 10% and 50% post-consumer recycled fiber. This month, it will be placing 100% tree-free recycled paper in more than 1,000 of its stores nationwide. But, forest protection advocates say that reversing the forest destruction that results from Staples' overall paper procurement is going to take much more than putting a few new recycled paper products on the shelves. Until Staples makes a long-term commitment in the form of an official company policy to stop buying products from old-growth and US public forests and to increase the average recycled content in all their paper products to 50%, groups say they will continue to hold the company accountable for the destruction of forests.

    For more information on The Paper Campaign's targeting of Staples, please visit