Furniture and the Environment

There is no doubt that we all need to think carefully about our planet and its future. Good Environmental Credentials are becoming increasingly important in the decision-making process for sourcing furniture.

It can be very confusing to compare different manufacturers’ Environmental statements, standards and ‘green labels’, so Interion is building a comprehensive comparative database to help us compare and select the greenest suppliers…

…To achieve this, we have issued a comprehensive questionnaire which captures compliance with the most recognised standards and certifications, but also looks at useful indicators such as recycled content, manufacturing locations and transportation policies.

environmental credentials questionnaire 1
environmental credentials questionnaire 2
environmental credentials questionnaire 3

The Main Standards

ISO14001 is perhaps the most recognisable International Standard for Environmental Management, relating to the processes by which goods are manufactured. Certification confirms to purchasers that environmental impact is being continuously measured and improved by an Environmental Management System (EMS).

Most furniture contains wood in natural or processed forms, so its important that suppliers can demonstrate that wood is sourced from a sustainable supply chain; here we’re looking for certification from The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) or the Rainforest Alliance. Steel is generally delivered to manufacturers with recycled content of approximately 40% worldwide, so it’s less relevant to seek specific certification. (ISO14021 requires 15.3% recycled content)

The Green Labels

There’s a plethora of green labelling schemes that are generally offered to manufacturers on a commercial basis. These can vary in emphasis, comprehensiveness and effectiveness, so a while a ‘green label’ can be regarded as a positive thing, its worth asking the supplier exactly what it means.

Some of the best known are Cradle to Cradle, Greenguard and EPD (Environmental Product Declaration). Trade Association membership will also bring awareness as evidenced by the Furniture Industry Research Association’s FISP – Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme.

Under the skin

There are many less obvious indicators of how seriously manufacturers are considering the environment. For example, do they provide documentation on the recycled content of their products and/or the proportion that can be recycled at end of life? Do they offer any services to assist recycling at end of life? Do they offer certification on VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions?

Where is the product manufactured – and where are components used in manufacturing sourced from? How controlled is the transportation process? (One or two manage their own fleets, using biofuels and reducing wasteful packaging)

If a supplier has previous successful experience delivering projects to a recognised occupier standard such as SKA, BREEAM or WELL, there is a good chance that they can do so again.

A final thought…

The very best thing you can do for the environment is to recycle as much of your existing furniture as you can. Interion can help you by undertaking a comprehensive survey of your existing products and arranging for them to be re-used or recycled as effectively as possible.

Interion maintains comparable environmental data for the leading suppliers in the UK market. Contact us for further help and guidance.

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