Winter in Canada

Our Role

Our commitment to corporate responsibility includes our shared responsibility for the environment and a commitment to sustainable practices. The concept of sustainability is often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Follett is committed to both understanding and implementing sustainable practices in the bookstores on the campuses we serve. What does sustainability mean for Follett? We consider a broad range of options to help us achieve our sustainability goals. For example, energy consumption and building materials are considered a part of our value chain. When you operate more than 850 bookstores, doing little things can quickly add up to make a big impact. For an overview of our sustainability efforts, visit FHEG Sustainability Flyer (PDF).

FHEG Sustainability in Action

We consider energy part of our value chain; managing it strengthens our bottom line as an organization. But paying close attention to the energy we consume - and how we consume it - is about more than our bottom line. It's about ensuring a sustainable tomorrow. With that in mind, Follett evaluated every organization within our corporate family in order to develop standards and best practices that will ensure we are acting as responsible stewards of the environment.
Our organizational goals are to not only find the right suppliers at the right price, but to reduce our total energy consumption across our entire organization in order to conserve natural resources. Currently, a 5% reduction in energy consumption per year is our target goal.

Shipping Cartons
As you can imagine, when you ship nearly 20 million textbooks annually, you use a lot of shipping cartons. At Follett, we have addressed our use of shipping cartons in two ways: First, we use only cartons that have 35% post-consumer recycled content for every shipment. Second, not only are our cartons made from recycled materials, we also take great pains to recycle the cartons ourselves. For example, when we conduct book buybacks, we send cartons to the bookstores we serve. When these cartons are returned to our River Grove warehouse full of textbooks, we reuse them.

We employ disabled adults through an organization called El Valor, which is focused on the needs of the disabled, disenfranchised and the underserved. At El Valor, our returned shipping cartons are broken down, turned inside out and re-assembled. They are then sent back to our warehouse where we use them again before ultimately recycling them. Sometimes we receive cartons that cannot be re-used. We then shred these cartons and use them in lieu of tyrofoam peanuts as packing material for our outbound textbook shipments.

Follett ensures that computers are properly disposed of and pose no hazards to the environment. All unusable equipment is disposed of through a Chicago-based company that has exceeded all governmental regulations and is licensed by local, state and federal authorities. Their goal is to conduct their business in a manner consistent with a clean environment.

In every bookstore we renovate, we use Nexterra carpet backing. Nexterra is an industry-leading, high-performance PET backing made from 35% post-consumer content recycled water and soda bottles with an additional 50% from post-consumer recycled glass. The result? Each 24" x 24" tile saves ten 16-ounce bottles from the landfill. Even better, Nexterra tiles are themselves recyclable.

Follett has implemented T5 fluorescent lighting wherever applicable in the college stores we serve. T5 fluorescent lighting represents the very latest in lighting technology, delivering up to 33% in energy savings versus traditional lighting. Because the T5 is smaller, it requires less glass, steel and phosphor to produce. The T5 meets stringent environmental regulations such as California's Title 24, ASHRAE 90.1 and IECC.

Construction Materials
Follett uses WoodstalkTM Fiberboard, which is made from wheat straw using polyurethane resin as a binder instead of the formaldehyde typically found in similar products. The result is that formaldehyde emissions are cut by as much as 97%. The wheat straw itself is a reclaimed resource; if it were not used in Woodstalk Fiberboard, the straw would have likely been burned, adding greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide to the atmosphere.

Woodstalk Fiberboard has received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits from the U.S. Green Building Council in the following categories:

  • IEQ 4.4 and 4.5: Low-emitting materials
  • MR Credit 4.1 and 4.2: Recycled content
  • MR Credit 5.1 and 5.2: Local/regional materials
  • MR Credit 6: Rapidly renewable materials
  • DE Credit 1.1: Innovation in design


Textbook Recycling
Follett is committed to the buying and selling of used textbooks, not only as part of our business, but also to reduce the amount of natural resources used to create these books. Follett's Wholesale division buys back and recycles more than 11 million books annually. Follett Educational Services, which serves grades K-12, also recycles more than 4.8 million books annually. Books that are declared out-of-print or old editions are not destroyed, but sent to libraries and schools in developing countries through the Bridge to Asia program. Other corporate divisions recycle books through Books for Africa.

General Merchandise
In response to customer interest, our general merchandise department introduced a number of new environmentally-friendly products in a majority of our stores. Select writing instruments from Zebra and Environotes notebooks, filler paper, portfolios and composition notebooks from Roaring Spring remain an important part of our school supplies assortment. Select stores that carry art supplies can purchase Strathmore Windpower Series art paper and sketchpads from our art materials distributor.

New environmentally preferable supplies are from Zebra, Pentel and Pilot covering pens, mechanical pencils and highlighters. In our convenience department, Seventh Generation Paper and Cleaning Products are being expanded to more stores.

Campus Participation & Support
In addition to ensuring that our facilities and policies are as "green" as possible, Follett participates in campus groups that are focused on sustainability. For example, at the University of Florida, our bookstore manager is an active participant in the UF Zero Waste Task Force, which was implemented by the university's Sustainability Committee. The task force also supports the "Green Textbook Initiative," an organization whose goal is to increase the number of educational publishers that use 30% post-consumer recycled content.

Commitment to Vendor Labor Code of Conduct
We know it's not enough to simply talk about one's values; one must demonstrate them. That's why Follett was the first academic retailer to develop strict guidelines for the vendors with whom we do business. And it's why you can be sure we buy only from officially licensed vendors who embrace our code.

In 1995, Follett became the first academic retailer to develop standards for fair labor practices in the manufacture of collegiate products. In doing so, we assumed a leadership position on the issue of child and sweatshop labor. Through a third party monitoring agency, Follett observes factories to ensure that no child or sweatshop labor is used to make products sold in our stores. This past summer, Follett selected ten factories to be monitored in the countries of El Salvador, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Columbia.

Monitoring of factories that produce items sold in Follett bookstores considers all provisions of the Follett Code of Conduct. Monitoring procedures for each provision of the code include observations of conditions in the factory, reviews of factory records and documents, inquiries of workers through confidential one-on-one interviews, and discussions with factory management. Monitors utilize a combination of procedures to corroborate information from each type of investigation to develop an understanding of conditions in the factory and compliance issues.

Provisions of the Follett Code of Conduct include:

  • Legal Compliance
  • Environmental Compliance
  • Wages and Benefits
  • Working Hours
  • Child Labor
  • Forced Labor
  • Health and Safety
  • Non-discrimination
  • Harassment and Abuse / Disciplinary Practices
  • Freedom of Association
  • Subcontracting
  • Verification - Monitoring Compliance
  • Communication and Notification Compliance

Follett also subscribes to the principles of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) as the vast majority of clothing vendors who provide us with the products we sell are members of the FLA. Their commitment to protecting workers' rights and improving working conditions worldwide also adds additional monitoring and verification that international labor standards are being upheld.

In addition to monitoring, we review reports from human rights organizations, labor groups, religious organizations and governments that provide monitoring data. We realize that supporting fair labor practices is an issue of great importance to our campus partners and our customers. More than that, it's simply the right thing to do.