Green certificate European Level

"Clear sign in the industry"

As the most important certificate for "green" office furniture, the European Level is being revised. Volker Weßels from the Industrieverband Büro und Arbeitswelt (IBA) explains what the changes mean for the industry.

Jul 12 2021

Mr Weßels, the European Level certificate for office and contract furniture, originally introduced in 2017, is currently being revised. What exactly does the certificate assess? 

Level is a mark of sustainability, the environmental and social aspects of which are addressed in a separate chapter. The third pillar of sustainability, in addition to the environment and social concerns, is economic efficiency. The European federation FEMB does not set criteria for this, this is up to the companies.  

What distinguishes Level from other certificates for furniture? 

For office and contract furniture, Level is the label with the broadest range of criteria, covering all product and production aspects. For many materials, the assessment is "gate-to-gate", i.e. from receipt at the first supplier to delivery. For manufacturing companies, this is the area in which they can and must take responsibility. With wood, however, the chain of custody starts in the forest. Life cycle assessments (LCA) and material efficiency assessments also start at the material source. 

Are there other differences? 

Level is also the only mark that can be accredited according to ISO 17065. This is the only way to ensure that product testing and certification are carried out independently of the mark holder and by neutral certification bodies. An economic gain is not intended with the Level Mark by the standard owner FEMB, it serves the European associations and companies as a benchmark for future-oriented and sustainable development. 

What changes are planned with the revision? 

In this first revision of the standard, practical experiences of the first years, error corrections and new legal requirements will be incorporated. In addition, the standard will be more strongly aligned with the vocabulary of the Circular Economy in the future, which, with the EU Green Deal, will also bring strong changes in the furniture sector in terms of product responsibility, transparency and other aspects such as design for recycling. Many of these points are not new in the standard, but are now explained using current terms.  

Who can participate in the revision? 

At the moment, the first round of public stakeholder consultation is running until the end of July, and interested parties are welcome to participate. All information can be found on the Level website.

How many products have been certified so far?

Currently, about 230 products or product lines have been certified. Due to the Corona pandemic, the pending certifications have not progressed to the desired extent. However, public tenders with sustainability criteria for furniture are now increasing strongly. Therefore, we expect an increase in certified products in many European countries in the near future. 

What sustainability criteria have been assessed? 

In a way, it is the "standard repertoire" of the current professional discussion and includes 23 basic requirements and about 50 further criteria from the areas of materials, water, waste, energy, greenhouse gases, chemicals management and social issues. In the future, further circular aspects will be added as already listed with the design for recycling. "Product-as-a-service" already exists, for example, in the credit for leasing and take-back programmes that encourage reuse. 

What other incentives besides such a certificate are needed in the future for a more sustainable production of furniture and how does the Industrial Association for Office and Working Environment (IBA) contribute to this? 

The most important incentives for sustainable production are currently being transformed into laws by the EU with the EU Green Deal. Here, as everywhere, it is a question of conditions of market approval, minimum requirements for product qualities, requirements in public tenders, considerations of economic efficiency over the entire product life cycle, tax incentives or "green finance" in the private sector. 

The IBA is significantly involved in the Level Certificate and, together with the FEMB, is setting a clear example in the sector. The IBA has thus been promoting sustainable production for years and sees the EU's activities in the framework of the Sustainable Products Initiative as confirmation of its goals in the field of sustainability. 

Volker Weßels heads the Sustainability and Quality Office departments at Industrieverband Büro und Arbeitswelt e.V. (IBA).

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