19 July 2024, 07:44
By EFFYDESK Apr 05, 2022

Sustainable furniture – why the industry is going green

In today’s world, when companies make efforts to be more sustainable, they will be rewarded with a better brand sentiment, more sales, and better customer loyalty, writes Canadian ergonomic office furniture supplier, EFFYDESK

People are more concerned about the environment than ever before. Customers will actively seek brands that care about sustainability.

Bringing in more sustainability can be a great thing for the furniture industry. It can mean saving costs on logistics, systems, and materials. Greater awareness of being cost-efficient during the production process can lead to cost benefits for the customer, the manufacturer, and the supplier. To move toward sustainability, changes are needed at every organisational level. This includes product design, product assembly, packing and shipping.

The carbon footprint

Why is it important for the furniture industry to go green and become environmentally responsible?

Protect our planet

Furniture production has a huge global carbon footprint. Each piece of furniture generates an average of 47kg of carbon dioxide equivalents. This is the same amount of greenhouse gases caused by burning 20l of petrol. Every year, 10 million tonnes of furniture is either incinerated or dumped in a landfill, in EU countries alone. It is important for us to think about how we can reduce the carbon footprint.

Consumer trends

Industry leaders have a responsibility to be environmentally aware. Consumers are becoming more sensitive to issues related to our ecology: 98% of furnishings customers practice environmentally friendly habits; and 60% of customers are prepared to pay more for furnishings that are conducive to protecting the environment.

By thinking about green strategies, companies can produce sustainable furniture, such as the closed loop collection. In this way, they are contributing to a more sustainable future and also attracting customers.

Reduce costs

Going green can actually be an effective way of reducing costs. This can include:

Saving energy: Using appliances and production methods that use less energy will also save money. There are many ways to save on water usage, to use renewable sources of electricity, etc.

Reducing waste: By implementing more recycling and reusing, you can save considerable money. You can also find ways to simply use less materials.

Tax incentives: Many countries offer 'green rewards'. These can include tax credits, rebates, and other financial incentives.

Retaining employees: Many top talents will seek ethical companies to work for. If people feel they are working for a company with strong values, this is likely to lead to better staff retention and work satisfaction. You can also support practices such as remote working to save on the costs (and environmental impact) of maintaining an office.

Improve work performance

Going green has been shown to improve work performance. Employees working at companies that are eco-friendly are shown to be +16% more productive. They are also better trained, more motivated, and better at forming work relationships. All of these factors help to increase efficiency at work.

Employing eco-friendly work practices such as investing in plants and supporting healthy eating is also shown to improve the mental and physical health of staff. This is going to mean fewer sick days and a higher level of productivity.

Becoming sustainable

There are many ways that furniture companies can become more sustainable. Many companies are already on the right track.

1. Create a circular economy

A circular economy (CE) utilises recycling and repurposing. It ensures that any waste from product manufacturing is used again. A circular economy helps to create jobs, is eco-friendly, and has other financial benefits.

IKEA aims to become carbon positive by 2030. Some of their initiatives include leasing furniture, upcycling and repair workshops for customers, second-hand stores, and reusing packaging.

2. Source responsibly

These days, many furniture companies are seeking to use materials that are sourced responsibly. This includes using wood that is harvested from sustainable forests. There is a trend towards moving away from synthetic materials that are made using chemicals that are harmful to the environment. The alternative is using natural fabrics made from cotton, wool, or even soybeans.

3. Use recycled materials

Many furniture manufacturers are seeking to use recycled materials. This applies to the products, the packaging, and the production. Flokk buys 600 tonnes of recycled plastic every year to use on their production lines. IKEA have replaced their wooden pallets with recyclable pallets made from paper.

4. Don’t use toxic substances

There are many substances that have been traditionally used in furniture production that are very toxic. These include adhesives, treatments, and surface finishings. These are gradually being replaced with alternatives that are more friendly for the environment.

5. Use renewable energy

Water power, wind turbines and solar panels can all be used to generate the electricity needed in furniture production. Vilniaus Baldai AB uses woodwaste from production to generate energy. They generate enough power to fully operate their factories from this source.

It’s time to go green

Making sustainability a priority for the furniture industry is a goal that is very achievable. In this day and age, it is absolutely necessary, and there are many industry leaders who are moving in this direction. Going green offers multiple benefits.

Our environment shouldn’t be an afterthought. Everybody has a part to play if we want to move toward a more sustainable future. Sustainable practices can be introduced at every level of the furniture industry. These include the design process, manufacturing, supply chains, packaging, and reusing materials.

In summary

Becoming sustainable can be great news for the furniture industry. Some of the benefits include protecting our planet and future, attracting customers and building a positive brand, reducing costs at many levels of operations, and improving work performance and staff retention.

For furniture companies to become more sustainable, there are a number of measures they can take. This includes creating a circular economy, sourcing materials responsibly, using a lot of recycled materials, choosing not to use toxic substances, and using renewable energy to power factories and production plants.

Sustainability is totally achievable. It simply needs different approaches to the traditional methods that exist in the furniture industry. With a bit of innovative thinking and commitment, the furniture industry can become a part of the solution and no longer a part of the problem.

Pictured: Photo by RODNAE Productions, Pexels

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