19 May 2024, 21:26
By Furniture News Mar 09, 2023

Winner: The Furniture Awards 2023 (Sustainability)

The Furniture Awards returned at this year’s January Furniture Show, to single out the suppliers setting the pace in their respective fields. From daring designers to green giants, this year’s winners represent just what our industry is capable of …

This year's Sustainability category winner was Westbridge Furniture Designs.

With environmental and ethical concerns paramount, this category highlights the champions of sustainable practice – suppliers that demonstrate the will to make the world a better place, and whose materials or processes make them natural winners.

Building on a background of sustainable design and manufacture, Deeside-based sofamaker Westbridge decided to get ahead of the curve and truly futureproof how it operates – coming up with Full Circle, a new manufacturing technique that delivers easily recyclable upholstery. 

Having soft-launched the approach with Sofology late last year, Westbridge took its cost-conscious Full Circle upholstery collection to the trade at this year’s JFS, putting sustainability front and centre of its presentation.

“Every year, the UK dumps the equivalent of two Wembley Stadiums’ full of upholstery and mattresses in landfill,” says Westbridge’s group creative director, Steve Olds. “But, as near as 2025, the upholstered furniture industry will undergo big changes in its practices, and an ERP (Environmental Producer Responsibility) scheme will be enforced – in other words, the equivalent of a landfill and recyclability tax will fall on the shoulders of retailers and manufacturers.

“Westbridge has a portfolio of the most responsible retailers, and has for many years been at the forefront of genuinely sustainable product design and manufacture – and our wish, with the above in mind, was to create a solution that could future-proof the way we operate as a responsible manufacturer.”

Full Circle sofas have no staples, so can be effectively broken down into recyclable components at the end of their lives. “So,” adds Steve, “zero to landfill, and in many, if not all, cases, a circular product.” A stapled product takes over 2.5 hours to break down at a willing recycling centre, says Steve, while a Full Circle sofa takes a little over 10 minutes, and can be done in situ.

“Our aim was to challenge the traditional and unsustainable manufacturing processes and create an appealing and commercial upholstery collection specifically targeting demographics that we know have their purchasing decisions influenced by sustainability as a criteria,” he adds.

The JFS launch consisted of six new ranges, all made to order in a variety of fabrics. Steve concludes: “Importantly, our aim is to make this sustainability cost-neutral against current manufacturing. In the short term we intend to move all our design and manufacturing to the Full Circle method, with several of our major retailers already wanting to transfer their models to this more sustainable and serviceable version.”

With tax rises around the corner and growing appetite for green product, Full Circle is a brave and inspiring new direction from one of the UK’s biggest sofamakers.

The judges said: “Over the years, Westbridge have become very good at jumping through a lot of hoops to achieve high ideals. But this is a truly brilliant concept – and it’s commercial, too. With plans in place to roll out this approach across its full range, Westbridge is really making a statement, and setting a standard. This is the future of furniture manufacturing.”

Read more about this year's award winners in the March issue of Furniture News, here

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