Forest Defenders Confront Office Depot CEO at Industry Conference

On September 4th, 2003, Office Depot CEO Bruce Nelson’s speech at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference was interrupted by activists from Wetlands and Rainforest Relief, holding a banner reading, “Office Depot Destroys Forests.” The Paper Campaign, a coalition of environmentalists, religious leaders and sportsmen, has targeted Office Depot for its continued destruction of the world’s endangered forests. The disruption was webcast worldwide to investors.

Nelson responded by saying "Those are my friends from the forest products industry who think we're cutting paper down from bad trees. They visit me frequently. I should welcome them and ask them to provide some advice to us." Rather than allow the activists to give him such advice, they were thrown out by security.

“Unlike industry leaders Staples and Kinko’s, Office Depot has failed to create an environmental policy that protects critical endangered forests including the Boreal forests of Canada, forests of the American Southeast and the rainforests of Indonesia,” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director of ForestEthics. “If Office Depot truly intended to ‘retail smarter’, it would make an environmental commitment that meets, if not exceeds, its industry’s standards.”

On Earth Day 2003, (April 22) Office Depot announced its Environmental Paper Purchasing Policy, which did not allow for the protection of the world’s last remaining endangered forests. Over the past few months, the company has been the subject of dozens of environmental protests as a result of its substandard environmental policy.

Last November, The Paper Campaign ended its two-year campaign against Staples Inc. after the company announced a landmark environmental policy. Since November, the campaign has focused on Office Depot and Office Max. Staples’ policy will result in sweeping protections for forests in the Southern US, US public lands and Canada’s Boreal forest, as well as other forests around the world. Led by Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics, the effort targeting Staples included more than 600 protests at Staples stores nationwide, ads featuring rock legends R.E.M., and thousands of letters and calls directed to the company’s CEO.

The Southeast US, home to Office Depot’s corporate headquarters and the most biodiverse forests in the country, is the largest paper-producing region in the world. Florida, Office Depot’s home state, is projected to lose 58% of its native forest cover by 2040, much of this to paper production funded by companies like Office Depot.

Key Paper and Recycling Facts:

  • 42% of the world's industrial wood harvest is used to make paper that is often used once and disposed
  • The pulp and paper industry is the third largest emitter of industrial greenhouse gas.
  • Paper makes up over 30% of all household garbage generated in the U.S., a far greater percentage than any other commodity
  • Creating paper from recycled fiber requires 27% less energy than producing paper from trees


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