Mark Buckley is vice president of environmental affairs at Staples, an office supplies retailer and a major Domtar customer. In this role, he is responsible for embedding sustainability into every aspect of its products, stores and manufacturing processes. Although he’s been a lifelong environmentalist, he believes that making a difference in business involves meeting people in the middle to develop mutually beneficial solutions for the future.
How long have you been interested in corporate sustainability? My interest in corporate sustainability has been probably forever. My background is in biology and environmental science; it was the reason I wanted to get into this kind of work. I was really interested in the environmental movement in high school, during the first Earth Day — and carried it through my corporate career. Officially, I’ve been in charge of sustainability at Staples for the past 13 years.
What does sustainability mean to you? On a personal level, I think sustainability is pretty broad. It really is looking at reducing not only society’s environmental impacts, but thinking about the social and economic impacts of all of our actions. It’s interesting, thinking about community maybe in a broader sense, not just physically where we’re located or where we do business — but really thinking about the interdependent nature of a global supply chain, and how those impacts effect a community half a world away.
Why should the general public care about sustainability? Well, I think the general public is increasingly aware that there are global pressures on natural resources, and they’re certainly increasing concern and demand. I think the big challenge is: how do you take action once you’ve got those concerns? I think the hope is that we can make it easy, in terms of the products that customers choose and so forth — that they understand that their purchasing power actually has an impact on sustainability and really improving some of these global negative trends that are happening relevant to natural resources.
How do you hope to make a difference? I hope to make a difference by being sort of a change agent wherever I am. How do I meet people where they’re at? The idea isn’t really to convert people, so to speak, but to find common ground that we all agree on. So the extent that I can engage with our customers and our associates, and meet them where they are relevant to sustainability — that’s really what my goal is.
How can everyday people become difference makers? Everyday people can become difference makers by becoming more educated and aware about some of these global trends, and how they impact their lives and the lives of others in their community. It’s the ability for everyday folks to make smart choices on the products and the companies they do business with.