Access to healthy forests is essential for outdoor enthusiasts and core to REI’s business. We use fiber and resulting paper products throughout our operations—from catalogs to cardboard and packaging to ship products, to the hang tags we place on our branded gear and apparel.
REI’s paper and paper products purchasing policy seeks to influence several outcomes. It is designed to reduce our environmental footprint, make our paper supply chain visible, and align our purchasing decisions with our values and aspirations. We prefer to purchase paper products manufactured from post-consumer waste or virgin fiber harvested from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forests, and we work to avoid buying products where the fiber comes from unknown or unwanted sources. For 2012, we chose to report only on the actual source of fiber for our materials (without chain-of-custody), as the existence of chain-of-custody accounting systems are now widely utilized in the paper industry and are useful only to verify the actual fiber source.
Sustainable forestry and efforts to influence our paper supply chain are strongly related to packaging innovations driven by our commitment to product stewardship as well as our waste reduction efforts.
Overall, our paper use increased slightly from 6,298 tons in 2011 to 6,549 tons in 2012. This increase is due to an increase in the number of catalogs and direct mail we mailed during the year, which used 2,450 tons of paper in 2012 versus 1,957 tons in 2011. Because more than 99 percent of the co-op’s catalogs and printed materials are produced on FSC-certified materials, the small increase in direct mail also increased our overall percentage of FSC-certified fiber. Additionally, 35.5 percent of our total paper came from FSC-certified virgin fiber sources, and an additional 5.4 percent of our paper came from FSC-certified post-consumer waste, so our total sourcing of FSC-Certified fiber was 40.7 percent of our total paper footprint, or 2,667 tons.
We are encouraged that our use of virgin fiber was 4,091 tons, only slightly higher than our lowest level on record. This is due largely to relatively high levels of post-consumer recycled paper used in the cardboard industry. Combined, our use of post-consumer recycled fiber and FSC-certified fiber was 67.4 percent of our total paper footprint.