Jeff Golfman’s Raw Office helps “businesses save money and be more eco-friendly in their supplies.” (photo from Raw Office)
Jeff Golfman has been working on ways to preserve nature since he was a boy. “I can trace it back to my time going to camps in the summertime and just really connecting with nature and with the human impact we have on the planet,” said Golfman, who went to B’nai Brith Camp in Kenora, Ont., and also spent one summer at Camp BB in Pine Lake, Alta., in addition to spending time at family cottages.
“Initially, it was just seeing people leaving garbage at campsites and leaving garbage in the wilderness. That really bothered me as a kid. It really stuck with me. That’s where it started, really. For me, wanting to be concerned about the legacy and what we leave behind, in terms of … how we show up on the planet and what we leave when we’re gone.”
Born in Vancouver, Golfman grew up in Winnipeg and is now living in Toronto. He started Winnipeg’s blue box recycling program in 1990 and then began researching how to make paper without trees, eventually getting patents to make tree-free paper, which is now available in big box stores like Staples, Office Depot and Office Max. About five years ago, he turned his attention to developing and sourcing product for his recently launched online office supply store, the Raw Office (rawoffice.ca).
“We help businesses save money and be more eco-friendly in their supplies,” he told the Independent. “It just made sense to do business with purpose…. It wasn’t so much that my passion was to save the world. It was more like I asked myself, ‘What is logical?’ And, to me, it’s logical that we’d want to do good while making commerce at the same time.”
While Raw Office’s current client base is 80% American, the company does business all across Canada, including in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
“We’re using artificial intelligence and data to come into businesses and make recommendations for them on how they can make better informed decisions,” said Golfman. “Most people, when they go shopping, basically just browse and shop, and add to their cart and check out. It’s a lot of manual work to do that. What we do is put together a custom-made, curated program for each and every business that we come into. So, we’re really a one-of-a-kind program for each and every client we work with.”
Golfman’s company helps clients increase their use of recycled material for starters. Leading by example, Raw Office is currently the only office supply company that is 100% carbon neutral.
“What we practise and help businesses to do is to make an improvement from where they are today,” said Golfman. “It’s not about 100% or nothing. It’s about making an improvement. On average, the companies that have chosen to work with us are saving 30% financially and are getting 200% eco-improvement.
“I can’t speak to the tax benefit just yet, because everything is so new and is a moving target. We’re doing this outside of the political system, to help business be carbon neutral at no extra cost, which I think is the ideal scenario.”
While many companies are working toward going carbon neutral, no other large international player has cracked the office supply sphere. “There are other companies doing eco-friendly office supplies, but the ones we’ve found are not national and international in scope like we are,” said Golfman. “They are usually regional players and niche players.”
Raw Office has teamed up with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and are buying carbon offsets to support landfill-to-gas projects, with 83,000 products on their website that show their individual environmental footprint.
“They are basically going into the landfill and pulling methane out of the landfill, and repurposing that for power and energy, and helping us reduce our emissions,” explained Golfman. “So, in a nutshell, we’re buying offsets and not charging our customers … banking that into the cost of working with us.”
By eliminating the bricks-and-mortar storefront of a conventional business, Raw Office is able to pass on the savings and offer carbon-offset products that cost 20-30% less.
“We are a technology-based company,” said Golfman. “We don’t hold inventory. We do drop shipping. It’s very similar to other tech companies that have been able to disrupt industries and reduce costs.”
Anyone can buy from Raw Office, but the bigger the company, the bigger the savings and planet impact. “We add a whole bunch of value to larger businesses that have multiple locations,” said Golfman. “A lot of the companies we work with are larger, with dozens or hundreds of locations. Most of our customers are like that, but we add value to all companies.
“One thing we do that is really uniquely for larger companies is the curated program and, also, we have these really great approval processes that allow managers and owners to approve of items and orders. And, we have these really cool features that allow the bookkeepers to integrate into their accounting software more easily.”
Meanwhile, Golfman is also working to create enhanced environmental and financial reports for his customers.
With products made all over the world, Raw Office offers complete transparency, with each product showing the country of manufacture and an eco-score.
“The eco-scoring system we created takes into account the country of manufacturing, eco-certifications and things like that,” said Golfman. “So, you’ll know, with transparency, if you’re buying something that’s made in Canada or overseas…. We make that really clear. If you had a preference for local manufacturing, you can do that on our website using filters … or, if you had a preference for some other country, we can do that, too. It’s all part of the search functionality.”
In his free time, Golfman volunteers with the nonprofit Green Kids, which he founded and of which he is board president.
“It’s an environmental theatre,” he said. “We do live theatre for children. We tour schools across Canada, all the way from Victoria, B.C., throughout Vancouver, Manitoba and Ontario. To date, 1,400,000 Canadian children have seen the Green Kids show.”
Golfman also runs a health blog, called, “The Cool Vegetarian,” where he interviews people about healthy eating and lifestyles.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.