Office Depot Sustainability Report: Big on Data, Short on Words
Office Depot‚Äôs North American operations reduced their carbon intensity by nine percent last year, from 17.1 lbs CO2e per square ft in 2011 to 15.5 in 2012, according to its 2013 corporate citizenship report.
The metric is down 30 percent from 2008 and 46 percent from 2003.
On an absolute basis, the company cut its North American carbon emissions 12 percent last year, from 281,000 metric tons CO2e in 2011 to 246,400 in 2012. It notes, however, that the EPA’s emissions factors were updated in 2012, resulting in a 5 percent decrease in emissions.
Absolute emissions fell 43 percent from 2003 levels, helping Office Depot to achieve a carbon reduction goal one year ahead of schedule, and winning the company an EPA Climate Leadership Award. The company says it has updated its 2003-2008 emissions data to include estimated HFC fugitive emissions from air conditioning, based on EPA guidelines.
Office Depot‚Äôs purchases of renewable electricity credits for its US operations fell off by 65 percent last year to 15,000 MWh, after a short rise to 42,300 MWh in 2011, taking REC purchases back down to the level seen in 2009, and roughly the level of 2010. This means that REC purchases last year stood at 4 percent, down from 10 percent in 2011. The company has flagged this drop as representing an ‚Äúimportant opportunity,‚ÄĚ on the color-coded environmental dashboard in the report, but the report does not explain why renewable electricity purchases dropped.
Net of offsets, the company‚Äôs carbon footprint shrank by 8 percent over the course of last year.
In North America in 2012, versus the previous year, the company nearly doubled its LEED-certified square footage, to 1.69 million sq ft; and boosted its square footage of Energy Star-certified facilities by 30 percent, to 850,000 sq ft.
The report provides a wealth of data, presented as several large data tables and graphs in the last few pages. One set of tables, titled the North American Environmental Dashboard, includes over 100 metrics in three categories ‚Äď Buy Greener, Be Greener and Sell Greener ‚Äď with measurements for the years 2003-2012. The company also presents percent changes over the past year, five years and ten years; and color-codes these results as ‚Äúimprovement opportunity,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúneutral trend‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúpositive trend.‚ÄĚ It also indicates where data was third-party reviewed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and which GRI indicators the metrics align with. (Data in this article refers to North American operations only, unless otherwise noted.)
A similar, though slightly less extensive, dashboard presents data for European operations: this has 43 metrics, with continent-wide data for 2011 and 2012, and a breakdown by country.
Where the report is lacking is in an explanation of results: barely any of the notable increases or decreases are explained. The report‚Äôs narrative is limited mostly to picture-heavy tables summarizing major achievements over the past decade.
Office Depot‚Äôs energy intensity fell 3 percent last year, from 11.94 to 11.6 kWh per square foot. The company‚Äôs square footage of buildlings leased or owned has formed a rough bell curve, rising every year from 2003 to 2008 and falling nearly every year since then, so today at 34.9 million sq ft, it stands almost as low as the level of ten years ago.
The company says the major energy efficiency lesson it‚Äôs learned is ‚Äúthe boring stuff works. Lighting, HVAC, energy management systems may not be sexy, but they save.‚ÄĚ
The company‚Äôs most dramatic energy reduction was in natural gas and propane, which fell 27 percent last year alone, from 338,000 mmBTU to 245,800 mmBTU. Consumption of this fuel type is down 35 percent versus 2008 and also versus 2003. The company‚Äôs natural gas spending fell accordingly in the past year, from $3.1 million to $2.2 million.
Electricity use fell by a more modest 7 percent in the past year, from 433,000 MWh to 403,900 MWh, but the absolute savings in electricity was greater than for natural gas: the company spent $42 million on electricity last year, compared to $46.6 million in 2011.
Office Depot‚Äôs metered water footprint fell by 17 percent last year, from 182.7 million gallons in 2011 to 150.9 million in 2012. Last year is the only year for which the company provides a water intensity figure, of 6.02 gallons per sq ft. The company says it has restated its water intensity figure to include both metered water usage, and estimated water and sewage use for facilities that do not have actual data.
The company‚Äôs spending on water rose from $2.44 million in 2011 to $2.5 million in 2012.
Last year the company‚Äôs waste intensity per square foot rose by 10 percent versus 2011, from 1.56 to 1.71 lbs.
Its waste footprint rose six percent, from 28,300 tons to 29,900 tons, and its total waste avoided through recycling fell by 8 percent, from 21,010 to 19,410 tons.
Its recycling rate fell from 43 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2012. Recycling income fell from $2.93 million to $2.03 million.
Material take-back from customers has also fallen substantially, down 36 percent from 8,700 tons in 2011 to 5,600 tons in 2012. But the company says that ink and toner cartridge unit weight estimates, updated from 0.16 lbs to 0.10 lbs and 3.27 lbs to 2.06 lbs respectively, substantially decreased its estimated total ink and toner tonnage. It does not say how much of the total drop in material take-back this adjustment accounts for.
Based on Office Depot‚Äôs rating system for greener products, the company has grown its green product assortment from more than 2,000 products to nearly 11,000 items since 2003. Its revenue from green sales fell in each of the past two years, however. Last year 26 percent of its sales came from green products, down from 28 percent in 2011 and 30 percent in 2012. In all, $1.98 billion of Office Depot‚Äôs $7.67 billion in North American sales came from green products last year.
The company‚Äôs Greener Office Rating System, developed gradually over the past decade, designates items as Light Green, Mid Green or Dark Green, based on environmental specifications.¬†But Office Depot notes that while this system has helped the company and its customers, it has not solved the problem of a lack of a standard definition for ‚Äúgreen‚ÄĚ products. For this reason it has been active in industry efforts such as the Green Products Roundtable, and last year became the first company to help fund its successor, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council. Office Depot says these initiatives have the potential to transform how institutions buy.
Also last year, the company finalized work with the World Wildlife Fund on a new Greener Paper Purchasing Policy.
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