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October 26, 2001
Norm Thompson Outfitters Dedicated to Greener Catalogs
    by Anne Moore Odell

Norm Thompson Outfitters' partnership with Alliance for Environmental Innovation results in the use of recycled paper in all of their catalogs.

On the back of each Norm Thompson Outfitters catalog, customers are informed that the catalog is printed using a minimum of 10 percent postconsumer recycled paper. The retailer has worked in partnership with The Alliance for Environmental Innovation, a project of the Pew Charitable Funds and Environmental Defense, since March 2000.

Together they have found that paper with 10 percent postconsumer recycled content is competitively priced, widely available, and received positively by consumers. Norm Thompson Outfitters is a leader in the catalog industry in making the changeover to recycled paper, helping to lessen the environmental burden at no loss to their profitability.

"The Alliance first approached Norm Thompson Outfitters in the fall of 1999, when it was researching the Greener Catalogs report," explained Derek Smith, Corporate Sustainability Manager for Norm Thompson Outfitters. "The Alliance featured Norm Thompson in that report as an example of a company that was using recycled paper - a 50 percent postconsumer recycled sheet in the cover of its Early Winters catalog."

The Greener Catalogs report found that using recycled paper in catalogs helps protect forests, reduces energy use, cuts pollution, and creates less waste. The Alliance for Environmental Innovation estimates that Norm Thompson's switch to recycled paper for their catalogs means an annual savings of 4,400 tons of wood, 20 billion BTUs of energy, 11.7 million gallons of wastewater and 990 tons of solid waste.

Norm Thompson's use of recycled paper also shows how the environment can be saved without being a burden on business. As Norm Thompson Outfitters points out, recycled paper can often be bought at the same price as virgin paper.

"Prices for recycled paper are negotiated, just like prices for virgin paper. Factors in that negotiation include the specifics of the order (tonnage, trim size, grade and basis weight), the overall volume of business and relationship between the supplier and customer, and general market conditions," said Mr. Smith. "In terms of time, there is no savings, but there is also nothing extra we have to do; no longer lead times, etc. The ordering process is virtually identical except that we specify recycled as a desired attribute, along with weight, brightness, etc."

Other ways that Norm Thompson works to reduce paper use, according to Smith, include directing customers to the Web, eliminating unnecessary envelopes, exploring smaller order form sizes, and offering 'preferred frequency' (customer choices in terms of how often they want to receive catalogs).

"Even though we don't save money or time, we feel that going recycled is the right thing to do," said Mr. Smith. "We are committed to moving toward sustainability and to being a practical model for our industry and the business world. We want to prove that sustainability is not just the right thing to do for the environment but also for commerce."

With consumer interest in sustainability continuing to grow, Norm Thompson Outfitters' lead in using at least 10 percent postconsumer content in their catalogs may pressure their competitors to follow suit.


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