Front Porch Blog

Dogwood Alliance Barred From OfficeMax Public Meeting

Down in Asheville there is an amazing organization called the Dogwood Alliance. Dogwood works with large corporations to protect Southern Forests. They were instrumental in getting Staples to adopt more environmentally friendly policies, and have also run successful campaigns with BoWater and Office Depot. Their asks include ending the harvesting of endangered forests on the Cumberland Plateau and using more recycled material in paper products.

Their current OfficeMaxe Campaign has been a great success as of yet. But members of The Dogwood Alliance were surprised yesterday when they were locked out of a public meeting at which OfficeMax CEO Sam Duncan was speaking, and threatened with ejection from the Texas A&M campus…

Eva Hernandez, campaign organizer for Dogwood Alliance and a Greencorps graduate tells it like it is.

The campaign against OfficeMax stems from its practice of selling paper from endangered forests in the southern United States.

The two largest paper suppliers, which are their two largest competitors – Staples and Office Depot, have established environmental paper procurement policies and OfficeMax has not.

Dogwood fights the good fight. They are very professional, and incredibly organized and effective at working with these large companies. So, when they were threatened with campus ejection, and locked out a public meeting, they were a little shocked.

“We were originally told through e-mail that the presentation was open to the public, and we would be allowed to attend. But once we got there, we were locked out of the presentation and told that if we were not registered business students we would be kicked off campus through campus security.”

Texas A&M business students are required by their curriculum to attend these CEO lectures. Duncan’s speech was about how to find a job after graduation. He also spoke about future improvements OfficeMax will undergo, including supply chain improvements, changes to the company’s infrastructure and enhanced operating performance.

During the lecture Duncan declined to comment about the company’s paper use.

If somebody wants my business, be it a company or a politician, just give me full disclosure. Don’t give me euphemisms. Tell me the honest truth – that you aren’t going to do what I want. That is enough. I might even support you for your willingness to be forthcoming with honesty. But I will not support these people who try to sneak things by us in the dead of night, who avoid the critical issues, or who do their business deals behind closed doors.

Texas A&M student Ryan Hazlett, a senior history, defended Dogwood.

Dogwood Alliance’s intention was not to protest but to bring these environmental issues to the forefront. The coalition wanted to let companies know they could still make a profit even after recycling and conserving, he said.

Hazlett, who is president of the campus Environmental Action Coalition, summed it up nicely.

“We want to come up with solutions that are both good for the environment and good for business,” said Hazlett, a senior history major. “We wanted to know when OfficeMax would be willing to start using more recycled materials in their paper.”

It must kill OfficeMax that their biggest competitors are using environmentally sound policies and still making more money than them! Now they are afraid to answer questions about their policy from a couple of young professionals? First they lock them out of a public meeting, then they use campus security to threaten and intimidate a few young people who are there to talk shop.

How long will we let these corporations do this in the United States of America?





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