The parent company of Office Depot and OfficeMax has agreed to cut its use of plastic packaging 20 percent by 2027 under an agreement it reached with green shareholders.
Boca Raton, Fla.-based ODP Corp. said it would reduce plastic packaging in its private label products and its e-commerce operations from a 2022 baseline, according to an announcement from the environmental investment group Green Century Funds.
Green Century, which announced the agreement Dec. 21, initially filed a shareholder resolution with ODP in November 2021. An executive with the green investment fund said ODP took the less common route of planning for an absolute reduction in plastics use, as opposed to pledging to use recycled content.
"Companies really fall on different parts of the spectrum," said Annie Sanders, director of shareholder advocacy at Green Century. "Some are pretty resistant to making any kind of commitments to reduce plastic packaging. Others are open to recognizing that it needs to happen."
"It's easier for companies to make a virgin reduction goal or recycled content goal part of their broader environmental goals. An absolute reduction can be viewed as more challenging," she said.
Boston-based Green Century said ODP went further than retailers Target and Walmart, which both set goals to reduce virgin plastic but did not make an overall commitment to reduce plastics use.
Sanders said Green Century will be encouraging other firms to make absolute reductions in their plastics used. Green Century said ODP is one of only a handful of major global retailers to make an absolute reduction target.
The company agreed to some other environmental targets. It wants to have How2Recycle labels on 100 percent of their private label products by 2025, set near-term company-wide emissions reductions targets and achieve zero waste in some operations by 2025.
Green Century said ODP did an internal review of its plastics packaging footprint in 2022, and that data helped it set the 20 percent reduction goal.
Sanders said Green Century will remain in contact with ODP.
"Our role in this whole process essentially happens at the beginning stages of commitments like this, but it is definitely important in our minds to continue a good working relationship with the companies that we hold, like the ODP Corp., and touch base with them to assess progress and make sure that essentially they're making the kind of change that they committed to in their withdrawal agreement," she said.
Green Century pointed to a survey that said 84 percent of U.S. shoppers are concerned about plastics and packaging waste, and that two-thirds of millennial and Gen Z consumers are taking more steps to reduce their plastic waste.
"This is a rising concern among the general population and especially younger generations," Sanders said. "Office Depot is really positioning itself as a leader and will reap some business benefits from this move, in addition to cost savings from just reducing the overall amount of plastic packaging that they're using."